How old were you when you discovered Sondheim?

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ljay889
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When did you become a Sondheim addict?
I was 15, and life has never been the same since. How old were you when you discovered Sondheim?
Updated On: 1/12/09 at 04:52 PM
ashley0139
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I believe I was also around that age. Maybe 14. Into the Woods was my first that I heard.
"This table, he is over one hundred years old. If I could, I would take an old gramophone needle and run it along the surface of the wood. To hear the music of the voices. All that was said." - Doug Wright, I Am My Own Wife
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LimelightMike
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Growing up, I can always remember KNOWING OF "Send in the Clowns" - If just recognizing the song for what it was, a song. Then, around 14, 15 years old, I embraced Sondheim - and the rest, as they say, is history...
BNN
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4 years ago, I watched West Side Story for the first time and was hooked to Bernstein and Sondheim, and then discovered Sweeney Todd soon after and was a fan for life.
Tick Tock
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BroadwayBoy2
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Funny Story.

I was talking with my Uncle whose a theatre buff as well, and I said to him when I was like 15ish "I haven't been able to ""get"" Sondheim yet." All he said to me was "Don't worry, you will I know you will." Then when I was 17 I saw the Nat. Tour of Sweeney Todd, and I called him immediatly after the show and was like "I GET IT NOW." My religious beliefs on Facebook are "SONDHEIM."
I'll have them clawing at eachother, like drag queens at a wig sale"
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Weez
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Must've been 23. I've long known West Side Story, but my first real Sondheim exposure was the Sunday revival. Which is nice. :3
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Mandi Moo
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When I was 11. My aunt, who got me into theatre in the first place, popped in the VHS of Into the Woods, and I fell in love. She gave me the recording soon after.
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Amalia Balash
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My senior year in college. Took a class in American Musical Theatre and A Little Night Music was one of the shows we studied. But a college production of Company was the first Sondheim show I actually saw and that's what hooked me.
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Schmerg_The_Impaler
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I can't say I'm a Sondheim addict just because I haven't seen/heard enough of his music to make a bold statement like that-- but I first heard Sweeney Todd when I was eleven, and it immediately became one of my favourite musicals, and still is.

I discovered "Assassins" when I was fifteen, and I love that as well. But that's the only other Sondheim show I'm really familiar with.
In my pants, she has burst like the music of angels, the light of the sun! --Marius Pantsmercy
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Theatreboy49
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When I was a freshman in high school my acting teacher had broadway show posters up in the room and I saw the Sweeney Todd one and was a bit intrigued. I had never heard of it but loved Angela Lansbury (actually, it was mainly my love for Bedknobs and Broom Sticks. I asked him what it was about and he said go get the CD you'd like it. I fell in love and learned the show in a week and to this day its my favorite show of all time and one of my two top dream roles. I have now made it my goal to perform in every one of his major works before I die. So far I just have ITW but I have SITPWG and Follies Auditions coming up.
<------ Me and my friends with patti Lupone at my friends afterparty for her concert with audra mcdonald during the summer of 07.
"I am sorry but it is an unjust world and virtue is only triumphant in theatricle performances" The Mikado
LadyRosecoe
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I knew of him at 14 and was into his work itself by age 15.
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nmartin
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When I was in high school in the 70s, I discovered A Little Night Music, I loved it. At the end of that decade I saw the original production of Sweeney Todd. Enough said.
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DrTheatre
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I was 18 working on producing a regional production of INTO THE WOODS. It was not until much later when I was the Production Stage Manager for the Sondheim event here in San Francisco in 2005, that I became hooked!
"In the U.S.A. You can have your say, You can set you goals And seize the day, You've been given the freedom To work your way To the head of the line- To the head of the line!" ---Stephen Sondheim
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DrTheatre
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I was 18 working on producing a regional production of INTO THE WOODS. It was not until much later when I was the Production Stage Manager for the Sondheim event here in San Francisco in 2005, that I became hooked!
"In the U.S.A. You can have your say, You can set you goals And seize the day, You've been given the freedom To work your way To the head of the line- To the head of the line!" ---Stephen Sondheim
fetzles1490
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I probably knew OF him at around 12, when I started to really get into theatre. I practically grew up with West Side Story, but I knew the music without knowing or really caring who created it. I saw amateur productions of Into The Woods and Sweeney Todd, probably when I was around 14, and eventually got the cast recordings and was exposed to more and more and realized his genius. It was all pretty gradual.
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PalJoey
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I was 14. It was 1970. I told the only other kid at my high school who was into Broadway musicals that I had just seen Minnie's Boys.

He laughed at me and told me that Minnie's Boys was stupid and old-fashioned and that I should go see this show at the Alvin called Company that he had just seen in previews. It was by Stephen Sondheim and it was really cool.

I said "Who?" and he told me why I should know who Stephen Sondheim, condescendingly. It was 1970. Other than Funny Thing, he was "just" a lyricist, but I was embarrassed to be so uncool.

I went that Saturday matinee and saw Company for my first of 4 times. It totally changed the way I saw theater, relationships, life, everything. It wasn't just the role of Bobby. I was also obsessed (at 14) with Elaine Stritch and Barbara Barrie. I cought the album (33 1/3 LP vinyl records back then) and proceeded to memorize the entire show.

A few weeks later, Dean Jones left the show and Larry Kert stepped into the role. I went back to see it with the kid who first told me to go, and we argued over who was better: Dean Jones or Larry Kert? I was transfixed by Larry Kert's voice and performance. He preferred Dean Jones.

Then I went back to see it when Jane Russell took over for Stritch and again, my 4th time, when Vivian Blaine took the role. Jane Russell was weird but good. Vivian Blaine was good but not great. Neither of them was Stritch.

I started memorizing every Sondheim lyric I could find, and when news started coming out about Follies, I became obsessed with that too.

I left a note with the Winter Garden stage doorman for the Follies cast opening night, signed with my name, as if anyone would know or care. I remember he asked who it was for and I replied, "Everyone."

The next morning I was on line to buy tickets--Hal Prince sold the last two rows in the balcony for $2 each. The line for the box office stretched down Broadway, around the corner and up 7th Avenue past the stage door. Hal Prince and Ruthie Mitchell had a coffee cart going up and down the line, dispensing free and coffee and doughnuts to everyone waiting to buy tickets.

I saw Follies 6 times and A Little Night Music 5 times. Those productions were beyond perfection--they remain among the most peak experiences of my life. After that I went to college, but I didn't love a Sondheim show that much again until Sunday in the Park. Nevertheless, I am still proud of the fact that I know so many of his lyrics by heart.

He is part of who I am.

Tonight, my partner and I are seeing the Roundabout benefit of A Little Night Music with Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson, Victor Garber, Marc Kudisch and Christine Baranski. He's never seen it.

I think we may be in for another peak experience.
Updated On: 1/12/09 at 05:35 PM
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ljay889
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Omg. Pal, I love your story (and all of your stories).
anotherhundredpeople2
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When I was... eleven I believe? I saw Assassins on the Tonys. Shortly after I was introduced to Into The Woods. I'd always known the songs Barbra Streisand had done on her albums (The Broadway Album and Back To Broadway).
When I was twelve I fell in love with SITPWG.
I'm completely obsessed. <3
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PJ, that is a lovely story!

This is why I love BWW. The adults in my family only tell stories about foot trouble and broken appliances.
In my pants, she has burst like the music of angels, the light of the sun! --Marius Pantsmercy
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Schmerg I hear that! Pal Joey that was a wonderful story. The passion and knowledge you posses about the theatre is a gift to this community.
<------ Me and my friends with patti Lupone at my friends afterparty for her concert with audra mcdonald during the summer of 07.
"I am sorry but it is an unjust world and virtue is only triumphant in theatricle performances" The Mikado
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sondheimfan2
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I was in high school (16 I think) when MERRILY opened. I remember reading a feature in the Times and was fascinated. Also, later that year I saw the national tour of ST with Angela Lansbury and George Hearn in Philly with drama club friends ---what an experience! I did not discover COMPANY nor NIGHT MUSIC for another two years.

However, my best theater-going memories are the OBC of SUNDAY, INTO THE WOODS, and PASSION. Saw OBC WOODS twice - once in previews where I asked Mr. Sondheim to sign my Playbill and introduced myself---and once a week after opening.

I cannot imagine living life without the knowledge of Sondheim shows.
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CATSNYrevival
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I was 13 or 14. It was 1999 and I kept hearing things about Putting it Together and how it was a revue of Sondheim songs and I realized I didn't know any Sondheim songs except for Gypsy and West Side Story, but those were just lyrics. I watched Putting it Together on Pay Per View and wrote down the songs that I liked, which was a lot of them, and then started buying the cast recordings the songs were from.
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rjjn
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I was around 10 when I first saw Gypsy, but the first all-Sondheim show I saw was a school production of Into the Woods last year. But I actually saw the movie Sweeney Todd before that.
"Rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me, I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love." -Neil Patrick Harris
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Mister Matt
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While I've never been a Sondheim "addict", I was first attracted to his work when I was about 17 or 18, listening to cast albums of Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park With George and Into the Woods (this was right around the time Into the Woods opened on Broadway). I soon was able to view the VHS recordings of those shows (as well as the first national tour if Into the Woods) and wanted to learn more. The first time I heard Company a few years later, I was obsessed with that recording, though saddened that I would never see it as it was originally presented. And I was fascinated with Merrily We Roll Along and Anyone Can Whistle. I admit I didn't truly appreciate A Little Night Music until I saw it. But I fell in love A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum when I played Hysterium. Passion probably had the most profound effect on me than any of his other shows. It resounded in a most effective and deeply emotional way. I felt the same lingering emotion when I saw The Light in the Piazza and Caroline or Change. It's not something that jumped out at me immediately during the performance, but a disturbing resonance that lingered for weeks after I walked out of the theatre. And I have never seen Pacific Overtures as anything less than a brilliant work of art. I think of it less as a musical and more as simply "art". Moreso than Sunday in the Park With George, I think.

Though I have always appreciated Sondheim's work, I've been oversaturated with it as of late and rarely listen to any of his recordings any more. Sadly, I never grew a taste for Follies, though after reading Everything Was Possible, I do wish I had been old enough to see the original Broadway production. I have been lucky enough to catch some wonderful productions, such as A Little Night Music at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre with Michael Cerveris as Carl-Magnus (one of his best performances) and the not-so-great, such as Bounce at the Goodman. I do hope he will finally desert that show and pull one more gem out of his pocket.
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
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wonderfulwizard11
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When I was 11, I started getting really interested in musicals. My sister had a copy of the original Sweeney Todd recording from when she auditioned for it in college, and, when I saw that it was a musical, I decided to give it a listen.

Needless to say, I fell in love, and have loved Sondheim's work ever since.
I am a firm believer in serendipity- all the random pieces coming together in one wonderful moment, when suddenly you see what their purpose was all along.