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Stephen Sondheim hailed by many as a genius has had a long and illustrious career in Broadway musical theatre spanning five decades During those fifty-some years Sondheim has essentially reinvented the Broadway musical The Sondheim canon shows three distinct ways Sondheim has contributed to musical theatre First of all the difficulty of Stephen Sondheims music has raised the standard of musical theatre Actors simply cannot stand onstage and sing as they used to in the days of Gershwin and Cole Porter Due to the unusual rhythms intervals and harmonies in Sondheims music actors must work when they perform in a Sondheim musical or learn a Sondheim song This has raised the caliber of quality in musical theatre Second the vast array of subjects Sondheim has written about has broadened the horizons of musical theatre Sondheims subjects range from passionate love Passion 1994 to the nature of marriage Company 1970 to fairy tales Into the Woods 1987 to the difficulty of making art in a competitive economic-centered world Sunday in the Park with George 1984 to insanity and perception of it Anyone Can Whistle 1964 The remarkable dexterity with which Sondheim handles his subjects and the deep complexity of the characters portrayed through the music and lyrics is an inspiration to composers everywhere Lastly many of Sondheims musicals do not follow a traditional storyline with a plot Many of his musicals disregard plot entirely and rely on vignettes and individual characters stories to relate the subject matter Merrily We Roll Along 1981 actually goes backward in time - each of its scenes takes place in an earlier year than the one preceding Assassins 1990 features the assassins or would-be assassins of the Presidents of the United States and does not even pretend to go in chronological order In Sondheims musical assassins from completely different decades are united in song and harmony Sondheims innovations in storytelling have opened the door for other composers to
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