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A Complete Roundup of Every Sondheim Musical

A Complete Roundup of Every Sondheim Musical

One of the most recognizable names in all of Broadway history, Stephen Sondheim is beloved by many for his extensive repertoire of musicals ranging from short-lived off-Broadway productions to best-selling, multi-revived Broadway hits. Throughout his career, Sondheim has written the music and lyrics for 16 full-length musicals and has written the lyrics for three more. In addition to his beloved full-length musicals, Sondheim has also contributed music and lyrics to other theatrical works, film and television projects, and several revues and anthologies. Over the course of his nearly 70-year career, Sondheim himself has been nominated for — and won many of — over ten Tony Awards, nearly 20 Grammy Awards, and an Academy Award, among dozens of other awards, with his musicals earning even dozens more. His body of work has left the theatrical community with an unforgettable legacy, and his repertoire is honored and adored by artists and audiences alike. We’ve rounded up a complete list of every full-length Sondheim musical — all 19.


Saturday Night

Saturday Night tells the story of two middle-class friends living and working in Brooklyn. Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics, and the book is by brothers Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein. Sondheim’s very first musical, Saturday Night was expected to hit the Broadway stage in 1954 but never made it due to the death of the lead producer. The musical finally premiered at a university in the UK in 1997. The New York premiere was at off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre in February 2000, where it ran for just over a month. Saturday Night has never been produced on Broadway.


West Side Story

Beloved by audiences for decades, West Side Story takes place on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and tells the story of two rival gangs of young men, the Jets and the Sharks, and the star-crossed lovers who become mixed up in this long-standing rivalry. Sondheim wrote the lyrics, Leonard Bernstein wrote the music, and Arthur Laurents wrote the book. West Side Story had its Broadway premiere in September 1957 at the Winter Garden Theatre. The production closed just under two years later. The original Broadway production was nominated for six Tony Awards including Best Musical in 1957. Since 1957, West Side Story has been revived on Broadway five times, with the most recent production beginning previews in December 2019 before officially opening in February 2020 at the Broadway Theatre prior to Broadway’s closure due to the COVID-19 situation. The musical was also adapted into a movie in 1961, and a new Steven Spielberg film adaptation is currently set for release in December 2020.


Gypsy

Gypsy is loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, and focuses on her mother, Rose, who is the ultimate showbiz mother. Sondheim wrote the lyrics, Jule Styne wrote the music, and West Side Story’s Arthur Laurents wrote the book. Gypsy premiered on Broadway in May 1959 at the Broadway Theatre before transferring to the Imperial Theatre, where it closed in March 1961 after just over 700 performances. The original Broadway production was nominated for eight Tony Awards in 1960, including Best Musical. Gypsy has been revived on Broadway four times, most recently in 2008. The musical was also adapted into a movie in 1962 and remade into a television movie in 1993, and a live-recording of the 2015 London revival was aired by BBC in 2015 and released on DVD in 2016.


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Inspired by the farcical works of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum tells the story of a slave who attempts to win his freedom by being his master’s wingman in winning over the girl next door. Sondheim wrote both the music and lyrics, while the book was written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. The original Broadway production opened at the Alvin Theatre — now known as the Neil Simon Theatre — in May 1962, and then transferred to the Mark Hellinger Theatre — which is no longer a theater today but is instead home to the Times Square Church — before finally transferring to the Majestic Theatre where it closed in August 1964. The original production was nominated for seven 1963 Tony Awards, of which it won five, including Best Musical. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum has since had two Broadway revivals. A film adaptation of the musical was released in 1966.


Anyone Can Whistle

Notably marking the stage musical debut of Angela Lansbury, Anyone Can Whistle is a three-act musical that tells the story of a financially-depressed town whose corrupt mayoress will do whatever it takes to draw tourists into town. Sondheim wrote both the music and the lyrics, and Arthur Laurents again joined forces with Sondheim to write the book. The original Broadway production opened at the Majestic Theatre on April 4, 1964 before closing on April 11 after a run of 12 previews and 9 performances. The musical was nominated for one 1964 Tony Award. Since its close, Anyone Can Whistle has not been revived on Broadway, but there have been two staged-concert versions in New York: at Carnegie Hall in 1995 and at New York City Center in 2010.


Do I Hear a Waltz?

Adapted from Arthur Laurents’s 1952 play The Time of the Cuckoo, which was the basis for the 1955 film Summertime starring Katharine Hepburn, Sondheim joined the Do I Hear a Waltz? team as lyricist after Oscar Hammerstein — the project’s original lyricist — passed away. It tells the story of a love affair in Venice between an American woman and a suave Venetian shop owner. Richard Rodgers wrote the music and Arthur Laurents updated the book from his original play. The musical opened on Broadway in March 1965 at the 46th Street Theatre — now known as the Richard Rodgers Theatre — and closed in September 1965. The musical was nominated for three 1965 Tony Awards. Do I Hear a Waltz? has not had any Broadway revivals. Sondheim admittedly regretted the project and the experience.


Evening Primrose

Written specifically for the television anthology series ABC Stage 67 in 1966, Evening Primrose is Sondheim’s only musical that was not written for the stage. The story is based on a John Collier short story from the 1951 collection Fancies and Goodnights, and it tells the story of a poet who hides out in a department store after closing and the people he meets there at night. Sondheim wrote both the lyrics and music, while the book was written by James Goldman. The Evening Primrose telecast was in color, but the original master tape has never been found. A black and white copy of the original telecast was used for DVDs, which were released commercially for the first time in October 2010. Additionally, the original cast recording was a limited release, with only 3,000 copies distributed commercially.


Company

Another Broadway favorite, Company tells the story of Bobby, a single man who is unable to commit to a relationship and struggles to understand marriage, through a series of vignettes tied together by Bobby’s 35th birthday celebration. Sondheim wrote both the lyrics and the music, and George Furth wrote the book. The original Broadway production opened in April 1970, at the Alvin Theatre — now the Neil Simon Theatre — and closed on January 1, 1972 after just over 700 performances. It was nominated for 14 Tony Awards in 1971, of which it won six, including Best Musical. Company has been revived on Broadway three times. Its most recent revival — which features gender-swapped characters and a female lead, Bobbi — began previews at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on March 2, 2020, but was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Follies

Sondheim and James Goldman reunited in the late 1960s to write Follies. The musical tells the story of performers from a musical revue — based on the Ziegfeld Follies — that played in between the World Wars, who reunite years later in the crumbling theatre in which the revue originally played. Sondheim again wrote both the lyrics and music, while Goldman wrote the book. The musical was originally set to be produced on Broadway in 1967, but the plans fell through, and the musical did not open until April 1971, when it opened at the Winter Garden Theatre. The show closed just over a year after its opening, a noted financial failure; however, the production was nominated for eleven 1972 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, of which it won seven. Follies has since been revived on Broadway twice.


A Little Night Music

Inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, A Little Night Music tells the stories of several couples’ romantic lives. Sondheim wrote both the lyrics and music, while Hugh Wheeler wrote the musical’s book. The musical opened on Broadway in February 1973 at the Shubert Theatre. In September 1973 the production moved to the Majestic Theatre, where it closed in August 1974 after a total of just over 600 performances. The musical was nominated for twelve 1973 Tony Awards, of which it won six, including Best Musical. The musical has since been revived on Broadway once in 2009. A film adaptation of the musical was released in 1977.


The Frogs

Another musical that took a while to make it to Broadway, The Frogs was freely adapted from Aristophanes’s Ancient Grecian comedy by the same name. The musical tells the story of Dionysus who, despairing the quality of living playwrights, travels to the Underworld to get Hades to bring a talented playwright back from the dead. Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for the musical, and Burt Shevelove wrote the original book in 1974. The book was revised by Nathan Lane and the score was expanded by Sondheim for the musical’s Broadway debut in 2004. The Frogs opened on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in July 2004 and ran for almost 100 performances before closing in October 2004. The musical has not since had any Broadway revivals.


Pacific Overtures

One of Sondheim’s least-performed musicals, Pacific Overtures tells the story of two friends’ experiences in Japan in 1853 during the westernization of Japan. The score, which is generally considered to be one of Sondheim’s most complicated and sophisticated pieces, is stylized in a quasi-Japanese manner. The original Broadway production was staged with men playing women’s parts and set changes made in full view of the audience. The production opened in January 1976 at the Winter Garden Theatre and ran for just over six month before closing in June 1976. Despite its limited run, Pacific Overtures was nominated for ten 1976 Tony Awards, winning two. Since 1976, the musical has not been revived on Broadway, but it has had two off-Broadway revivals.


Sweeney Todd

An infamous Sondheim fan-favorite, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street — known more commonly as simply Sweeney Todd  is based on Christopher Bond’s 1973 play by the same name and tells the story of Sweeney, an unjustly exiled barber who returns to London seeking vengeance against the judge who framed him and destroyed his wife. Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics, and Hugh Wheeler wrote the book. The original Broadway production premiered at the Uris Theatre — now known as the Gershwin Theatre — on March 1, 1979 and closed in June 1980 after over 550 performances. The musical was nominated for nine 1979 Tony Awards, of which it won eight, including Best Musical. Sweeney Todd has had two Broadway revivals as well as a very successful off-Broadway revival in 2017 that ran for approximately a year and a half. The musical was also adapted into a movie in 2007.


Merrily We Roll Along

Based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, Merrily We Roll Along tells the story of Franklin Shepard, a talented Broadway composer who abandons his friends and career to become a Hollywood movie producer. Sondheim wrote the lyrics and music, and George Furth wrote the book. The original Broadway production opened on November 16, 1981, at the Alvin Theatre — now known as the Neil Simon Theatre — to mostly negative reviews. The show closed two weeks later on November 28. The production was nominated for one 1982 Tony Award. Since then, the production has not been revived on Broadway, but has had two off-Broadway revivals.


Sunday in the Park with George

Inspired by French painter Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Sunday in the Park with George tells the story of George, a fictionalized version of Seurat, who is deeply immersed in his painting, and his cynical artist great-grandson, who is also named George. Sondheim wrote the lyrics and music, and James Lapine wrote the book. The musical originally premiered in 1983 off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, and at the time, only the first act was completed. The musical opened on Broadway in full at the Booth Theatre in May 1984, where it ran for just over 600 performances before closing in October 1985. The original production was nominated for ten 1985 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, of which it won two. The original cast of Sunday in the Park with George reunited for a Broadway concert version of the musical in 1994, and it has since been revived on Broadway twice.


Into the Woods

Another all-time musical theatre fan-favorite, Into the Woods intertwines the plots of several Brother Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, outlining the characters’ various adventures and the consequences of their overlapping desires and quests. Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for the musical, and James Lapine wrote the book. The original Broadway production of the musical opened at the Martin Beck Theatre — now known as the Al Hirschfeld Theatre — in November 1987 and closed in September 1989 after over 750 performances. The show was nominated for ten 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, of which it won three. Into the Woods has since had one Broadway revival and one off-Broadway revival. The musical was also adapted into a movie by Disney in 2014.


Assassins

Framed as a semi-revue, Assassins portrays a group of historical figures who attempted — successfully or not — to assassinate various Presidents of the United States. Sondheim wrote the lyrics and music, and John Weidman wrote the book based on an original concept by Charles Gilbert, Jr. Assassins had its premiere off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 1990, but didn’t open on Broadway until 2004. Roundabout Theater Company’s Broadway production was originally scheduled to open 2001 but was postponed to April 2004, because the content was sensitive in light of the events of September 11, 2001. After 101 performances at Studio 54, Assassins closed in July 2004. The Broadway production of Assassins was nominated for seven 2004 Tony Awards, of which it won five including Best Revival of a Musical. Interestingly, although Assassins had not run on Broadway prior to 2004, the previous West End production and original Off-Broadway production led to a ruling by the Tony Awards Administration Committee that the musical be considered as a revival instead of an original musical.


Passion

A uniquely one-act musical, Passion was adapted from Ettore Scola’s film Passione d’Amore, and its source material, Iginio Ugo Tarchetti’s novel Fosca. Passion tells the story of a young Italian soldier’s obsessive love interest in his Colonel’s ailing cousin. Sondheim wrote the lyrics and music, and James Lapine wrote the book. The musical opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre — now known as the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater — in May 1994 and ran until January 1995. The production was nominated for ten 1994 Tony Awards, of which it won four, including Best Musical. The production has not since had any Broadway revivals, but it was revived off-Broadway in 2013.


Road Show

Sondheim’s final musical to date, Road Show tells the story of the Mizner brothers’ adventures across American from the early twentieth century Klondike gold rush to the Florida real estate boom of the 1920s. The show went through a complex evolution, originally produced off-Broadway in 1999 under the title Wise Guys, then again after heavy rewrites as Bounce in 2003, and then finally again off-Broadway after more rewrites as Road Show in October 2008. The off-Broadway production of Road Show closed in December 2008. The musical never made it to Broadway, and there is no official cast recording beyond the 2003 recording of Bounce.