A Giant in the Sky: Stephen Sondheim's Top 3 Songs

Stephen Sondheim wrote some of the most popular and beloved songs from musicals.

Castor Chan
30th November 2021
Image credit: EVERYMAN Cinemas
There is simply something magical about musical theatre, and with no doubt, Stephen Sondheim will always be regarded as one of the Broadway greats. Being both a composer and lyricist, his work rocked the pop culture scene, with that influence extending beyond the stage even today. So as we look back on a long and thrilling career, here are the top 3 of my favourite pieces.

'Send In The Clowns'

Well as it goes in A Little Night Music, this might be a good chance to bring in a few jesters in this sad time. A heavily recorded song, most don’t understand the ironic premise behind the title until they hear it performed in a stage setting. The emotion in the rejected Desiree’s voice draws audiences in and devastates them in a short few minutes. Sondheim’s look on love and life is satiric and honestly scathing but tinted with the faintest bit of wistful hope, and Judi Dench’s and Barbara Cook’s interpretations are definitely my favourite performances of that song.

'Losing My Mind'

This piece from Follies tugs at my heartstrings every time, and the way that the music swells just sweeps you along this rollercoaster of longing and the spiral Sally has gone down for this man. Bernadette Peters - who to me is the Christine to his Phantom in how she takes his music and shines - sings it with such vulnerability at the 2014 Olivier Awards that it seems as if she is wholly encapsulated by the character. And a special mention to Jeremy Jordan’s soulful performance at 54 Below, which is a rearranged version meant for A Bed and a Chair

'Somewhere'

And to end on a plot twist and what is in my opinion one of the greatest musicals (and subsequently scores) produced, the entirety of West Side Story. It’s genuinely hard to choose just one song because the whole show is literally revolutionary. It was not only unprecedented for its time, but it has also become such a classic and iconic piece of musical history that there is a remake going on the silver screen in less than two weeks. (I am beyond excited for Rachel Zegler’s film debut as Maria by the way) 

This musical has range and I am all here for it. The score takes you on a ride, from the delightful ‘I Feel Pretty’, the exhilarating ‘America’ to the iconic ‘Somewhere’, popularised by Barbara Streisand (and also covered by the one and only Rick Astley). This show is certainly one of the most well-known on the stage and it is most definitely on any theatre lover’s bucket list to watch live on Broadway. 

What is your favourite piece?

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