One of theaterís great creative talents, composer and lyricist Stephen Joshua Sondheim (1930-) was born to a well-to-do family on this day in New York City and began piano lessons at age seven.
After studying with mentor Oscar Hammerstein, Sondheim made his Broadway debut by writing the lyrics for Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story (1957).
"Probably one of the most frightening things in the world is staring at blank sheet of paper and wondering how you're going to fill it... But somehow you do," he once said.
Brilliant and innovative, Sondheim never played it safe. His breakthrough musical Company (1970) revolutionized the art form by tackling the subject of modern marriage in a nonlinear way. He crafted short, upbeat notes to celebrate excitement or anger and soaring notes words with long vowels to show passion.
''I love to write in dark colors about gut feelings," he explained.
A Little Night Music (1973), written entirely in waltz time, featured probably his best-known piece, Send in the Clowns. In Pacific Overtures (1976), a Broadway music set in 1853 Japan with traditional Kabuki theater elements and haunting melodies, he wrote, "The Heart knows, the Thought denies, is there no other way?"
Sunday in the Park with George (1984) was based on a painting by George Seurat and won Sondheim the 1985 Pulitzer Prize. "Work is what you do for others... Art is what you do for yourself," said Sondheim, the winner of six Tony Awards and the Kennedy Center Medal (1994).
"Everything's coming up roses..."