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Back to the present day. “Hamilton” is off my desk, and Sondheim’s desk is full.
Miranda: How do you clear your desk and write the next thing?
Sondheim: Well, I collaborate with people. My spark often comes from collaborators. You know, I go to John Weidman1 and say, “Let’s write something else, you got any ideas?” Whatever it is. I mean, I’m a collaborative animal.
Miranda: I’m the same way, except my collaborator is Tommy Kail2.
Sondheim: I need the spur. And the spur and the boost comes from somebody else, generally. Rarely, only in the case of “Sweeney”3 did I come across something myself and think, “Oooh.” Oh, no, and “Passion.”4 Those are the two.
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Miranda: And “Sweeney” was the one where you were working from the original text and said, “I need a book writer,” right?
Sondheim: Yeah. I’d been working from a little Samuel French-type version.5 I was up to Page 8 in Bond’s script, which is, I guess, the marketplace scene,6 and already it was an hour and a half long. I thought, “This is not going to work because I don’t know how to cut, really.” I mean I do, but I don’t. That’s why I got Hugh Wheeler,7 because he was born in England, he was the son of a bankruptcy judge. So he knew something about class structure. And I’d had a good time with him on “[A Little] Night Music.” Also, he’d been a mystery writer, you know. He was one of the most prolific mystery writers in America. He wrote (and co-wrote) under a pseudonym, Patrick Quentin.
Stephen Sondheim | "Broadway Baby"
The song from his 1971 musical “Follies,” as sung by employees of The New York Times.By BARBARA ANASTACIO on Publish Date October 16, 2017. Photo by Barbara Anastacio. Watch in Times Video »