A new Instagram account, launched last week with the handle @sondheimletters, collects personal correspondence from late Broadway titan Stephen Sondheim, the groundbreaking composer-lyricist behind such musicals as Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Company, and Sunday in the Park with George.
The letters shared range from a recommendation for a then-unknown Jonathan Larson (who would go on to write Rent and tick, tick...BOOM!) to answering questions like which of his book writers was his favorite ("I really wouldn't favor one over the other"), to simple—if confounding at their apparent necessity—corrections ("I am not the composer of A Chorus Line. Sorry.") See his letter to Howard Ashman, fresh off the premiere of his Little Shop of Horrors, below.
Mostly typed on Sondheim's simple, elegant letterhead, the letters speak to Sondheim's well-known generosity to fans and fellow theatre writers. Many of the letters include advice to budding composers and lyricists ("You might also read Oscar Hammerstein's Introduction to his book of lyrics, which has a number of sharp general points to make."), well wishes to high school productions of his work ("To the cast and company of the Danbury High School production of West Side Story - Thanks for doing the show, and continue the good work."), and lots of thanks for fan compliments.
A Puliltzer Prize recipient and eight-time Tony Award winner, Sondheim died November 26 at the age of 91.