[ on sondheim ] [ teaching resources ] [ into the woods, jr. ] [ merily we roll along ] [ sweeney todd ] [ sunday in the park with george ]
A Stephen Sondheim Timeline

This useful Internet-based timeline presents important milestones in the life and career of Stephen Sondheim, with links to a wealth of Internet resources for more information.



1930 Steven Sondheim is born on March 22, 1930 to Janet Fox ("Foxy") and Herbert Sondheim in New York City.

1936 Sondheim receives his first piano lessons and attends his first muscial, White Horse Inn.

1940 Sondheim's parents divorce. Herbert Sondheim marries Alicia Babe. Foxy maintains custody of Stephen and sends him to New York Military Academy.

1942-1943 Sondheim enters George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania, and becomes friendly with James Hammerstein, son of Oscar Hammerstein II.

1945 Sondheim writes a musical about campus life called By George! at the age of 15. He presents the work to Oscar Hammerstein who criticizes the work and requests that Stephen write four musicals to learn the technique. Stephen Sondheim says that he learned more about musical theatre in an afternoon with Hammerstein than most people do in a lifetime.

1946 Sondheim enters Williams College as liberal arts major.

1947 Sondheim takes acting roles in Antigone and Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth. He publishes three short stories in The Purple Cow literary magazine. He composes a piano sonata and piano suite. In the summer he works as a gofer on the Rogers and Hammerstein production, Allegro.

1948-1950 Sondheim continues performing and creating Oscar Hammerstein's four assigned musicals until graduation, at which point he moves in with his father in New York. In 1950, Sondheim graduates magna cum laude from Williams College, and he also receives the Hubbard Hutchinson Prize, a two-year fellowship to study music.

1952 Sondheim collaborates with Mary Rodgers on a musical for TV, The Lady or the Tiger? It is never produced. Sondheim writes a piano concerto for two pianos in three movements, later succeeded by a violin sonata.

1953 Sondheim writes the score for Saturday Night. The musical is abandoned in 1955 when its producer Lemuel Ayers dies. Sondheim collaborates with screenwriter and playwright, George Oppenheimer for the television series, Topper.

1955 Sondheim is chosen as co-lyricist for Berstein-Laurents-Robbins, West Side Story. He will eventually become the full lyricist.

1956 Sondheim writes incidental music for the play, The Girls of Summer.

1957 September 16: West Side Story premieres on Broadway.

1959 Gypsy opens on Broadway with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Jule Styne. Styne refers to Sondheim as the first lyric writer who understood what she was doing with music. Gypsy marked the last show that Stephen Sondheim would do in the "Rogers and Hammerstein style."

1961 Sondheim writes incidental music for the play, Invitation to a March. The fiilm version of West Side Story is released.

1962 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opens on Broadway—a collaboration of Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart with score and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Writes mini-musical, Passionella directed by Mike Nichols in Pennsylvania.

1963 The film version of Gypsy is released. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is awarded a Tony for the best musical of the year.

1964 Anyone Can Whistle opens on April 4. The show abruptly closes on April 11.

1965 Do I Hear A Waltz?, music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Sondheim, premieres on Broadway. Sondheim completes first draft of The Girls Upstairs (later to be titled, Follies).

1966 November 16: Evening Primrose, a play with music for television, premieres.

1970 April 26: Sondheim's Company premieres. Stephen Sondheim begins working relationship with Harold Prince.

1971 April 4: Sondheim's Follies premieres on Broadway. This premiere marked the second collaboration with Harold Prince. Sondheim's lyrics and score for Company earn two Tonys, respectively.

1972 Sondheim's lyrics and music earn him a Tony Award for Follies.

1973 February 25: Sondheim's A Little Night Music premieres on Broadway. This premiere marked the third partnership with Harold Prince, and would later earn Sondheim his fourth Tony, this one for lyrics and music. Sondheim: A Musical Tribute opens in the Shubert Theatre. Sondheim appears on the cover of Newsweek magazine.

1974 March 8: Sondheim writes additional lyrics for a new production of Bernstein's Candide. May 20: Sondheim's The Frogs premieres at a Yale Swimming Pool. Sondheim & Co., a book about Sondheim's collaborations with other artists and the theatrical process, is published.

1976 January 11: Sondheim's Pacific Overtures premieres on Broadway. This premiere marked the fourth partnership with Harold Prince.

1977 Side by Side by Sondheim premieres on Broadway, an assemblage of Sondheim songs put together in an evening's revue by the British quartet of David Kernan, Ned Sherrin, Millicent Martin, and Julia McKenzie.

1979 March 1: Sondheim's Sweeney Todd premieres on Broadway, which soon earns him yet another Tony for his lyrics and music.

1981 November 16: Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along premieres on Broadway. The show abruptly closes on December 2. Due to artistic differences, the Harold Prince and Stephen Sondheim partnership ends.

1984 May 2: Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George premieres on Broadway. Sondheim partners with James Lapine.

1986 Sondheim: A Music Tribute is held in Shubert Theatre. Sondheim performs on piano while singing Anyone Can Whistle.

1987 November 5: Sondheim's Into the Woods premieres on Broadway. Woods marked the second greatest success for Sondheim and the second collaboration with James Lapine. Sondheim's book, Sondheim & Co., is revised to include Into the Woods.

1988 Into the Woods earns Sondheim a Tony for lyrics and music.

1991 January 27: A workshop production of Sondheim's Assassins premieres off Broadway.

1992 The film Dick Tracy is released, featuring songs by Sondheim such as "Sooner or Later," which wins the Academy Award for Best Song. Sondheim refuses the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) medal, calling the NEA medal a "symbol of censorship." Sondheim's mother, Foxy dies.

1993 March: Putting It Together, a revue based on the songs of Stephen Sondheim, premieres.

1994 April 23: Sondheim's Tony Award-winning Passion premieres on Broadway.

1997 Stephen Sondheim works on Wise Guys, a new musical about the Mizner brothers.

1998 Sondheim's critically acclaimed revival of Follies opens at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Into the Woods opens in London.

1999 Putting It Together is revived on Broadway.

2000 Merrily We Roll Along is revived in London.

2001-2002 Into the Woods revival opens on Broadway. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Sondheim Celebration opens.


also in this section:




Each of Sondheim's musicals is distinctively different; different from other Broadway musicals, and different from other Sondheim musicals as well. All were ground-breaking in their time, all remain provocative today.

In our Selected Works section, we focus on four Sondheim musicals that are appropriate for high school audiences.

Download and print classroom versions of the posters for the shows presented here, created especially for ARTSEDGE users! Visit the Extras page for more information.

This resource was created in May 2002 by ARTSEDGE. All rights reserved.
For credits and additional information, see the Sources page.
ARTSEDGE is a project of the Education Department of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts,
and is a member of the MarcoPolo Partnership.