“Take me to a world where I can be alive” – thoughts on Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim’s passing hit me harder than I even had thought it might. I have been privileged to play BOTH Bobby and Buddy (from Company and Follies respectively): two sides of the same male-arrested-development coin. And, speaking of sides, I did my time in Side by Side by Sondheim. I have cherry-picked from his inestimable songbook for one-man cabaret shows over the years. I spent my high school summer in Japan obsessed with Madonna’s Dick Tracy-inspired I’m Breathless, most notably the numbers “Sooner or Later,” “More,” and “What Can You Lose?”

But my deep love of his story-songs began with Barbra Streisand, Betty Buckley, and Dawn Upshaw, who wove magic with Sondheim, plucking tunes from his catalog, disentangling them from their source shows, imprinting the vocalists’ own hopes and heartaches on his twisty-turny lyrics, and giving the soon-to-be standards new life through clever and evocative arrangements. That’s when I saw Sondheim’s true musical brilliance, as a Rorschach test on the soul, malleable and elastic but never losing the unique zing that was purely him.

I find myself heartbroken yet also optimistic that generations of similarly intrepid performers will continue to be inspired by Sondheim and to explore the maps of their hearts through his work.

Let me see the world with clouds
Take me to the world
Out where I can push through crowds
Take me to the world

A world that smiles
With streets instead of aisles
Where I can walk for miles with you

Take me to the world that’s real
Show me how it’s done
Teach me how to laugh, to feel
Move me to the sun

Just hold my hand whenever we arrive
Take me to a world where I can be alive

“Take me to the world” – from Evening Primrose

5 thoughts on ““Take me to a world where I can be alive” – thoughts on Stephen Sondheim

  1. Roy,

    What a beautiful tribute. I did not see your Bobby, but I can verify that your Buddy was positively wonderful – a real tribute in itself.

    Thank you for your heartfelt thoughts.

    Tom

    >

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