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Student Blog: What Does Your Favorite Sondheim Musical Say About You?

An unscientific analysis in celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s birthday.

Just a few days ago, the theatre community celebrated the birthday of Stephen Sondheim. The prolific composer/lyricist is a giant of the theatre world, considered to be one of the greatest - if not the greatest - at what he does. His work holds a special place in my heart, as it does in the hearts of many who love rich, complicated, challenging, interesting theatre, and deeply appreciate either words/language/lyrics or the intricacies of music theory (or both). But none of his innovative works is just like another - so which one in particular you gravitate towards can say a lot. So in good, lighthearted fun in celebration of a genius's birthday, I bring you a very unscientific analysis of what your favorite Sondheim musical says about you!

Student Blog: What Does Your Favorite Sondheim Musical Say About You?
My love for Sondheim goes back to playing the Baker's Wife in high school (so yes, I am calling myself out with the Into the Woods personality type).
(photo by Lorraine Rough)

If your favorite is Into the Woods : You were/are a humanities kid who especially loves books. You have a very specific character in this show that you strongly identify with (and which character that is also says a lot about you). You loved Emily Blunt in the 2014 film adaptation but believe nothing can beat the recording of the original Broadway (Bernadette Peters) production. This was probably the first Sondheim show you encountered (either seeing it, or performing in it in high school). Either it introduced you to the brilliance of the whole Sondheim canon but remains special to you because of your history with it, or you just don't know a lot of other Sondheim. You love chaos.

If your favorite is Merrily We Roll Along: you are very type-A, probably an oldest sibling, you know a lot of trivia, you are probably not just a theatregoer but are somehow actively involved in the arts (though not necesarilly as a performer). You're still bitter that this show flopped and feel strongly about how underrated it is.

If your favorite is Sweeney Todd: you like *serious* theatre and strongly believe that the point of musical theatre is NOT simply to offer happy, escapist entertainment. You have probably gotten into intense discussions about this. You're probably a musician, and were a quieter backbone of your high school theatre community.

If your favorite is Sunday in the Park with George: you love art or history or both. You call *that* painting 'the Sunday in the Park with George painting'. You are a perfectionist who gets very, very deeply invested in things you are passionate about and sometimes other parts of your life suffer as a result.

If your favorite is Company: you like *weird*, devised, nontraditional theatre and re-imaginings of Shakespeare. You strongly dislike Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. You have liked theatre for a very long time, and read theatre criticism and other writings about theatre. You are thoughtful, introverted, and independent, but fairly social and popular.

If your favorite is Assassins: You are definitely a history nerd, and have a lot of thoughts, including critiques, about many figures in American history. You probably didn't love Hamilton, or at least are critical of it. You listen to a variety of genres of music besides showtunes.

If your favorite is Follies: you love iconic Broadway divas, and were probably introduced to this show by some video you found of one of them (probably Bernadette) singing a song from this in concert. Most of the roles you play now, and songs you want to sing, and your dream roles, are way too old for you. You are glamourous but have depth.

If your favorite is A Little Night Music: You are deeply chaotic, are always in the midst of or in the loop about so much drama, and are the go-to source for the tea. You love to confidently and enthusiastically give very well-intentioned advice but its quality may sometimes be questionable. You fall in or out of love with someone new each week.

If your favorite is Passion: You're a little dramatic, intellectual, cynical, pessimistic, and artsy. You aren't usually a big contemporary rock musical fan but had a strong Spring Awakening phase before discovering and falling in love with this show. You love Donna Murphy.

If your favorite is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: You love this one but don't really like other Sondheim musicals. You love Will Ferrell and Mel Brooks movies. You probably had a Greek/Roman mythology phase or studied classics at some point.

If you favorite is West Side Story or Gypsy: You love classic musical theatre, you're probably a dancer, you'll acknowledge that Sondheim is a great lyricist but you aren't really the biggest fan of the complex, more dissonant sound of his music. You may be one of those people who say all of his music sounds the same.

If your favorite is Anyone Can Whistle: You love Barbra Streisand, heard her iconic version of "Everybody Says Don't", and loved it so much you had to learn about and become a fan of the show it was from.

If your favorite is any of his other, more obscure, works (Pacific Overtures, The Frogs, Evening Primrose, Do I Hear a Waltz, Saturday Night, Road Show, etc.): you definitely look down on fans of Hamilton, Wicked, Be More Chill, and especially the Ratatousical. You have an argument ready to go about why this favorite obscure musical is in fact good. You probably listen to the Broadway channel on Sirius XM. You dislike Andrew Lloyd Webber even more than the Company fans.

What do you think? Do these Sondheim personality types seem accurate to you? Ask your friends their favorites and see how true these hypotheses might be. And keep celebrating Stephen Sondheim!

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