Stephen Sondheim is known as one of the most innovative composers and lyricists of our time. From Romeo and Juliet (West Side Story) to fairy tales (Into the Woods) to Impressionism (Sunday in the Park With George), he has successfully shaped a fantastic assortment of stories into musicals filled with insight and wit.
Sondheim was profoundly influenced by Oscar Hammerstein II Rodgers and Hammerstein who was not only a musical mentor, but a father figure for the young Sondheim. Sondheim's first musical was By George, a parody. Hammerstein pronounced the work atrocious and then went over every detail of the script with Sondheim. In that one afternoon, Sondheim received some of his most essential songwriting lessons. Later, he worked professionally with such top talents as Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Richard Rodgers, and Harold Prince.
Sondheim is a passionate game player and even writes crossword puzzles for the New York Magazine. "I'd work on computer games if I had the time," he says. A CD-ROM of Into the Woods even included a game he invented that teaches music to kids and adults.
Sondheim's career spans 5 decades and yet he says, "I don't think of retiring...I just genuinely like it [work], even when I'm having a rotten time doing it."