JOE BLITMAN'S
FASHION & CELEBRITY DOLLS
2021 HOLIDAY ADVENT CALENDAR
DAY 14




16 Dartmouth Drive
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
323-953-6490

 
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STEPHEN SONDHEIM

1930-2021




There has been so much written about composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim since his passing at 91 on November 26 that it seems redundant to relate the details of his life and work. 

You can read lengthy obits and artistic appreciations in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Variety, among hundreds of other places. 

Suffice it to say that Sondheim was supremely talented as a composer and without parallel as a lyricist and lived long enough to see his work appreciated globally. 





Not long enough, however, to see the 11 doll-related items from our website that we are featuring today:




JEWEL 'N GLITTER SHANI
(1994)
$49.99


GOING ON A BIG TRIP
TODD OUTFIT
(1978)
$20.00




TODD
(1966)
$50.00

SOLD - SORRY


HELLO BARBIE
INTERACTIVE
(2015)
MIB
$35.00

SOLD - SORRY


FOLDING BEACH CHAIR
(DOLL-SIZED)
2021 BARBIE CONVENTION GIFT
(2021)
NRFP
$7.99


STYLE LEGACY ISABELLA ALVES
OUTFIT ONLY
FASHION ROYALTY
(2020)
$99.99


PANTON
WIRE CONE CHAIR
MINIATURE
1:6 SCALE
(BARBIE & INTEGRITY DOLL SIZE)
$250.00


DOLLY'S WORLD
TRAVEL LUGGAGE SET
(1960s)
NRFP
$35.00


GOLFING GREATS
(1971)
NRFB
$249.99


SORBONNE
(1966)
Art Book, English Book,
Shiny Book Strap,
Red Pencil, Pink Pencil
Mint in Cello
$129.00

SOLD - SORRY


GIFT CERTIFICATES
IN ANY AMOUNT YOU WANT



From the very start, Stephen Sondheim’s ambition was to write his own music and lyrics, but his first Broadway assignment was to co-write lyrics with Leonard Bernstein to Bernstein’s music for “West Side Story.” 




It was only at the urging of Sondheim’s mentor, Oscar Hammerstein (of Rodgers & Hammerstein), that he took the job.





As the work progressed, because of Bernstein’s heavy conducting schedule and the fact that Sondheim’s lyrics were first-rate, Sondheim wound up writing virtually all of the lyrics.
 




At the time of the Broadway opening in 1957, Bernstein graciously offered to take his name off the lyrics (which Sondheim gratefully accepted) and give up his lyricist’s share of the royalties (which Sondheim foolishly declined). 

So let’s look at some clips of “West Side Story” songs that have become classic standards:


Sung by the original Tony (Larry Kert)
and Maria (Carol Lawrence)


Performed by Johnny Mathis (who had
a big hit with this back in the day)



An interplanetary interpretation by
Barbra Streisand in 1985



From the 1961 movie version of
“West Side Story”



After the success of “West Side Story,” Sondheim thought he had earned the right to do both the lyrics AND the music for his next show. 

He was so relieved when he was signed to do both for “Gypsy.” 

But there was a hitch. 

Ethel Merman was the star.





She had had a bad experience with new songwriters on her last show, “Happy Hunting.” 




She had no intention of working with a neophyte again. 

Merman wanted Jule Styne (see Day 13 of the Holiday Advent Calendar) to do the music. 




Sondheim could do just the lyrics -- she would agree to that. 

Sondheim’s inclination was to say “no.” 

Hammerstein advised him to say “yes.”  "Writing for a star will be invaluable experience for you," said Hammerstein. 

Sondheim agreed, but he wasn’t happy about it.





The role of Mama Rose is the “King Lear” of musical comedy.




Every musical theater diva wants to play it: 

Ethel Merman,



Angela Lansbury,



Tyne Daly,



Bette Midler,



Bernadette Peters



Patti Lupone 




Even Dolores Umbridge -- Imelda Staunton -- got her chance in London.



Barbra Streisand said she would do a movie remake of “Gypsy” as recently as 5 years ago. 

The one who wanted it the most - but didn’t get the chance - is Liza Minnelli. 

Here’s what we think of as her audition from 30 years ago at Radio City Music Hall:



When “Gypsy” was in rehearsals, Merman took Styne and Sondheim up to Cole Porter’s apartment in the Waldorf Astoria Towers. 



After 20 years of pain and 34 operations, Porter had finally and very recently had a leg amputated that had been injured in a horseback riding accident.

To cheer Porter up, she wanted him to hear the songs Styne and Sondheim had written for her.  Sondheim recalls Porter sitting silently through the impromptu recital until “Together” was played. 

The lyric …

“Wherever I go I know he goes
Wherever I go I know she goes
No fits, no fights, no feuds
And no egos, amigos together”

… made Porter smile and sigh contentedly.  He loved the rhyme of “no egos” and “amigos.”  Sondheim silently observed it was the kind of rhyme Porter might have written in his prime.

Here are three prominent troubadours of the 20th century having fun with the song:



So ingrained in the American vernacular is the phrase “everything’s coming up roses” that some of you will find it impossible to believe that prior to “Gypsy,” the phrase didn’t exist.

It is totally the invention of Sondheim. 

It’s one of the reasons Merman always said of Sondheim (whom she didn’t like):  “Stevie is very clever.” 

By the way, the animus was mutual. 

Privately, Sondheim, who had no respect for Merman as an actress, referred to her as "the talking dog.”

Here’s Merman near the end of the original run of “Gypsy,” showing that “clever Stevie” certainly knew how to write for a star:



Within a dozen years, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” was so famous, it was ripe for satire. 

Rita Moreno used to sing it at showbiz parties, assuming the persona of "Googie Gomez," bad Latina singer of songs.





Terence McNally incorporated the character into his play, “The Ritz,” and Moreno won a Tony Award in the process:



Lyrics AND Music!  At last!

In 1962, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” gave Sondheim the chance to write complete songs.
 




Out of town, the show was bombing. 

Audiences didn’t know what to make of it - was it a comedy or what? 

Sondheim came up with an opening number -- “Comedy Tonight” -- that spelled out exactly what the show was about and what the audience could expect.
 

That turned the tide, and then it was on to a 2+ year run.

The original star was the incomparable Zero Mostel:





There have been several first-class revivals of “A Funny Thing ...” through the years, including one with the equally-incomparable Nathan Lane.


 

With some help from Bernadette Peters AND Liza Minnelli, here’s the same number done live to open that year’s Tony Awards telecast:



Writing both lyrics and music, Sondheim has only had one gold-plated standard -- "Send in the Clowns," from 1973’s “A Little Night Music.” 

As a song, it’s all about the acting of the words, not so much about the perfect singing voice.  It was performed brilliantly by Glynis Johns in the original Broadway production.



Here -- also quite brilliant -- is Dame Judi Dench:





From 1981’s commercial failure “Merrily We Go Along” -- only 16 performances -- come three songs that are well on their way to becoming standards:




featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda
(post-“In The Heights,” but prior to “Hamilton”)



Lonny Price singing on
the original Broadway Cast album



from a “Sondheim at 80” celebratory concert
in England just over a decade ago



Sondheim rarely wrote songs for the movies, but Warren Beatty corralled him to write 5 songs for Madonna to sing in the movie “Dick Tracy.” 




One of them, “Sooner or Later,” won the Oscar for Best Song.

Here’s Madonna selling it on that year’s Academy Award telecast -- the year she went to the Oscars with Michael Jackson as her “date.”



Stephen Sondheim wrote dozens of songs for stage and film.

We haven't even touched on several of our favorites -- especially songs from:

"Company"




and "Follies"






and "Sunday in the Park with George."
 




Here is a wondrous video tribute -- featuring wooden dolls -- to serve as a recap of Sondheim’s amazing Broadway career:









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