Amy Reads Books

Finishing the Hat Volume 1: .

Finishing the Hat: The Collected Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim (Volume 1) with attendant comments, principles, heresies, grudges, whines and anecdotes - Stephen Sondheim Stephen Sondheim's Finishing the Hat is essentially a collection of his lyrics from the shows he's worked on from West Side Story in 1954, to Merrily We Roll Along in 1984, with additional comments on the shows, some of the songs and essays on other lyricists.For me, this book was sort of like a musical theatre Bible; Sondheim is viewed as (and in my opinion is) one of the best musical writers around, and he is one of the greatest influences on newer original composers today, including the late Jonathan Larson who wrote Rent and Jason Robert Brown who created The Last Five Years. Getting to read exactly the type of process that Sondheim follows when creating his shows, and also getting insights into the behind the scenes goings-on of shows like Gypsy and the flop Anyone Can Whistle was really interesting to me.Unlike other memoir-type books, Sondheim does not critique anyone who is living, and perhaps his harshest words are reserved for a Robert Brustein, the manager of Yale Rep in the 1970s, who pushed for a performance of a work named The Frogs. Otherwise, Sondheim is remarkably polite about everyone; he suggests that Nathan Lane & Arthur Laurents may have ego problems (not really a suprise) and that occasionally directors & producers make choices that negatively impact shows, but he is clearly keen not to offend anyone. His is perhaps most harsh on himself, especially when discussing his lyrics to West Side Story, a show that many people adore, but he views as unrealistic; arguing that songs like 'I Feel Pretty' contain words that a young Puerto Rican immigrant would not know.I would say that Finishing the Hat and it's to-be-released follow-up Look I Made A Hat are probably not for people who have no experience with Sondheim musicals; it is generally assumed that you have at least heard the cast recordings, and it is certain that I didn't get as much out of the chapters about say, Pacific Overtures or Saturday Night as I did out of the chapters about Company and Sweeney Todd, because I am unfamiliar with those particular shows. All in all, however, if you are interested in Sondheim or musical theatre writing, then this book is a must-have.