In praise of … Stephen Sondheim | Editorial

A well deserved lifetime achievement award from Critics Circle for the foremost composer-lyricist of his generation

Today the foremost composer-lyricist of his generation will receive a lifetime achievement award from the Critics Circle. You might call it Friday at the lunch with Stephen since the recipient is the 81-year-old Mr Sondheim. It's right that he should be celebrated here since, while he pushed forward Broadway's frontiers with shows such as Company and Sweeney Todd, Sondheim's radicalism and lyrical ingenuity have often been appreciated more in Britain than at home. His work has been staged by the Royal Opera, ENO and the National Theatre; he's been the subject of a Prom; he's twice been Radio 3's Composer of the Week. Shows such as Assassins that found little favour in America gained a new lease of life through intimate London stagings. If we have embraced Sondheim's work, it is because he experiments within a popular tradition and accepts that the function of art is to challenge and stimulate, not soothe and reassure.


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