By Meryle Secrest
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307946843, 480pp.)
Publication Date: October 4, 2011
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The first and only full-scale and definitive biography of the most important composer-lyricist in musical theater today.
Drawing on personal conversations with Sondheim himself, as well as interviews with his friends, family, collaborators, and lovers, Secrest offers new insight into the enigmatic and very private Stephen Sondheim. Here, we learn about his childhood on New York’s Upper West Side, his parents’ devastating divorce, and his ascent to the peaks of the Broadway musical. Secrest vividly recreates the energy, passion, and despair that went into each beloved show, from Sondheim’s fabled collaboration with Hal Prince on Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music, to his disagreements with co-lyricist Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story. A fascinating and remarkable portrait of the man, the music, and the genius of Stephen Sondheim: star of his own fascinating and unfinished life.
Meryle Secrest was born and educated in Bath, England, and lives in Washington, D.C. She is the author of ten biographies and is the recipient of the 2006 National Humanities Medal.
“A great read, magnificently reported and full of insights.” —USA Today
“An indispensable book.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Intriguing. . . . An evenhanded portrait of a sensitive but essentially solitary man.” —The New York Times
“Memorable. . . . Secrest’s biography of Sondheim brilliantly captures the uncertainties of a life in the theater.” —People
“Even walking Sondheim encyclopedias will find news here. Secrest spent hours interviewing Sondheim, and he talked with unprecedented candor about his homosexuality, his unhappy childhood and his ‘snappish intolerance’ of others.” —Newsweek
“Admirable. . . . [Secrest] is clearly a tireless researcher and marathon interviewer. . . . Those with and those without a special interest in the musical theater are kept happy.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Impressively researched, eminently readable. . . . [Secrest] does a remarkable job of integrating the life and the work. The result is a portrait of a brilliant, deeply sensitive man.” —Philadelphia Inquirer
“Definitive. . . . Secrest has connected Sondheim the human being with Sondheim the genius.” —Houston Chronicle
“Fascinating. . . . Secrest’s book on Sondheim is so fascinating that anyone can enjoy it.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A must-read for anyone interested in the musical theater. . . . In Stephen Sondheim: A Life, Meryle Secrest sheds some light on the complex sensibility that grew out of a golden yet emotionally ragged childhood.” —New York
“What distinguishes Secrest’s work is her access to the very private, vulnerable and sometimes quite prickly composer himself, and through that, the first detailed study of his complex personal life.” —Chicago Tribune
“Meticulously researched. . . . A bonanza.” —The Denver Post
“Superb. . . . Garners our trust, seducing us into a delicious and uncommonly erudite show-biz read.” —Newsday
“A portrait of a complicated, contradictory and compelling artist. . . . Secrest does much to illuminate some of the darker corners of Sondheim’s life, as well as to describe his long years in the spotlight.” —The Miami Herald