June 29, 2012

My close personal friend Stephen Sondheim

While your friendly arts blogger chillaxes in another week of Summer Vacation 2012 (complete with temperatures in the triple digits!), we bring you another reprint of a previous blog post from 2010.  It's included in my book The Opera Zoo: Singers, Composers and Other Primates, available from Kendall Hunt Publishing.

I hate to ruin your day by making you pea-green with envy, but I have an announcement to make: 

Stephen Sondheim is now a close personal friend of mine.

Steve-o the Steve-ster
Yes, that Stephen Sondheim.  No, not the one who lives in Squashblossom, Indiana and is a retired agent for State Farm Insurance.  Nope, this one is the real deal; the reigning giant of musical theater; the lyricist for Gypsy and West Side Story; the composer of a long string of iconic Broadway smashes.

I think.
See, here's how this went down.  The other day, I was minding my own business on Facebook, killing time.  (Yes, at the office, if you must know.  Oh come off it, you do the same thing,)  You know, the usual:  posting sardonic comments to friends' status updates, playing Pool Master, counting to ten when friends with differing political views from mine post something that irritates me, and so on. 

Then I saw it, right there on my newsfeed.  One of my nominal Facebook friends, a well-known composer who accepted my friend request in the same spirit that Derek Jeter signs an autograph for a 10-year-old kid, was named in an item on the home page:

"(Friend's name) is now friends with Stephen Sondheim"

Say what?????  There was Sondheim's name, appearing in that Carolina blue font indicating a tag.  It didn't say my friend "liked" Stephen Sondheim; it said he was "friends" with him.

Well, shoot!  Did I click on that blue-fonted tag?  Yes I did.  And what did I see?  A facebook page for Stephen Sondheim. 

Why does this impress me so much?  It's not like celebrities never touch social media, even in the snootier echelons of the performing arts field.  I've been a nominal Facebook "friend" of Carlisle Floyd for some time now.  That's Carlisle Floyd; composer of Susannah, The Grapes of Wrath, and several other successful American operas.  That's Carlisle Floyd, the dean of living American opera composers.  (Who, by the way, is a blood relative of my wife's and shares with her the hometown of Latta, South Carolina.)

Somehow, Sondheim just didn't seem like the type to "put himself out there" to me.  Would Bach go on Facebook?  Would Verdi?  (Handel totally would, the PR hog.  And Liszt would have been good for about 10,000 friends.)  I just imagined Sondheim being too private for social media.

And, of course, maybe he is.  Maybe the page is a fake.  Maybe it was constructed by a pimply college freshman at Stanford named Howie who can't get dates, lives on nachos, never leaves his dorm room and has memorized all the lyrics to every Sondheim show, including Assassins

I prefer to think otherwise.  I think it's the real Stephen, and I bask in the glow of now being "tight" with him.  Yeah, we're cool... we're tight... we're like this:  [intertwines two fingers]  Why, in no time at all, I'll be seeing inbox messages from him: 

"Glenn, you old dog, how the hell are ya?  Listen, I just heard on the grapevine you've written some children's operas. You BASTARD -- you've been holding out on me!  Hey, you'll have to come up to my lake house and play through them for me, I'm dying to hear your stuff.  Bring a six-pack of Black & Tans with you and I'll throw some drumsticks on the grill.  Oh, say -  I've got some sketches for some new material I've been working on - I'd love your feedback if you don't mind.  Ring me up on my private cell.

Catch ya later, 

Steve-o the Steve-ster.


To commemorate this new "relationship", I've taken some of Sondheim’s musical numbers and (*cough cough*) tweaked the lyrics just a bit. 

From Sweeney Todd:

There was a Stephen and his friend....
And it was beau-ti-fullllll...
A famous Stephen and his friend,
I'm clearly going 'round the bend,
But still it's beau-ti-fulllllllll.....

From A Little Night Music:
A weekend out with Sondheim;
He'll invite me, yes I'm sure of it now;
A weekend out with Sondheim,
In the country, with a cow.

A weekend out with Sondheim;
We'll go bowling, maybe take in a show;
A weekend out with Sondheim;
It could happen, you don't know...

 Or this one:

Isn't it rich? Aren't we a pair?
Stephen and I are best pals,
(Please don't split hairs.)

Isn't it bliss?  Isn't it sweet?
He texts me smart, funny quips,
I tweet him tweets...
Send in the Glenns...

There ought to be Glenns...

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