Sondheim on Hamilton, Steely Dan, Lady Gaga and His New Musical

News   Sondheim on Hamilton, Steely Dan, Lady Gaga and His New Musical Master Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim gave Billboard magazine a wide-ranging interview in which he talked about the Hamilton phenomenon, his taste in popular music and his upcoming new musical.

Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim Photo by Jerry Jackson/courtesy of HBO

On Hamilton
Speaking with Billboard’s Kerri Mason, Sondheim, 85, said he agreed that the theatre world is “too insular to age well,” and said the success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton may help that. But he observed, “you don't get a lot of those because, first of all, producers don't take chances on new stuff. Most new stuff is new but not as skilled as Hamilton. Lin knows how to write a song, and so did [Rent creator] Jonathan Larson. Rent was the perfect example of a guy with one foot in the past, one foot in the present and a third foot in the future, but it's mostly in the present.”

On Pop Music
Sondheim also said that Miranda had sent him some hip-hop recordings. He said, “I've never been into pop music particularly. I have friends who are and play things for me. That's how I got into groups like Radiohead and, in the 1960s and '70s, The Association and Steely Dan.”

On Lady Gaga Comments
Asked about quoted comments that Lady Gaga’s performance of “The Sound of Music” on the Oscars was a ”travesty,” he said, “That was a misquote, of course. I was inveighing against the producer for giving her that material to sing. I said that made a travesty of it because it's not exactly what she's used to or feels comfortable singing. Maybe she does, but she doesn't seem comfortable. So the entire thing was about the producer and not about her."

On His Next Show
Asked about his next show, the previously reported musical with David Ives, based on two movies by Luis Buñuel, "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" and "The Exterminating Angel," he spoke of the latter film, saying "It's about another group of people, also upper-middle-class, who arrive at this elegant mansion for a large ­dinner and they can't leave. They get their dinner, but something ... it's not like a glass wall; it's a reluctance to leave. They stay in this one room for weeks, running out of food and water. They're trapped within their own desire…. It's really about the end of the world."

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