Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine

By Gregory Kable, dramaturg, Into the Woods

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine working on Into the Woods.

One of the most indispensable and influential artists in the contemporary theatre, Stephen Sondheim was born in New York City in 1930. Following his early mentorship by Oscar Hammerstein II, Sondheim attended Williams College in Massachusetts and studied with avant-garde composer Milton Babbitt. Entering his professional career, Sondheim wrote the lyrics for the Broadway musicals West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959), and Do I Hear a Waltz? (1965) as well as contributing to Candide (1973). In addition to Into the Woods, his works as composer-lyricist include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Anyone Can Whistle (1964), Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), The Frogs (1974, revised 2004), Pacific Overtures (1976), Sweeney Todd (1979), Merrily We Roll Along (1981), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), Assassins (1990, expanded 1992), Passion (1994), and Road Show (2008). Sondheim’s numerous honors range from eight Tony Awards, including Best Score for Into the Woods, a 2008 Special Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, eight Grammys, and the Academy Award for Best Song for Dick Tracy (1990). He was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1983, a Kennedy Center Honoree for Lifetime Achievement in the Performing Arts a decade later, and awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1996. Along with James Lapine, Sondheim received the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Sunday in the Park with George, one of only eight musicals in Pulitzer history to earn that recognition. In commemoration of his eightieth birthday in 2010, Broadway’s former Henry Miller’s Theatre was renamed for Stephen Sondheim.

James Lapine was born in Mansfield, Ohio in 1949. He attended Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. While teaching advertising design at the Yale School of Drama, Lapine directed a production of Gertrude Stein’s Photograph which transferred to New York, winning him an Obie award. Lapine subsequently wrote and directed Table Settings (1980), Twelve Dreams (1985, revived 1995), and his stage adaptation of playwright Moss Hart’s autobiography Act One for the Lincoln Center Theatre (2014). On Broadway, Lapine has written the book for and directed Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods (1987, and its 2002 revival), Passion, the 2010 revue Sondheim on Sondheim, and directed a concert version of Merrily We Roll Along at New York City Center (2012). Lapine collaborated with composer-lyricist William Finn on the landmark March of the Falsettos (1982) and its sequel Falsettoland (1990) later combined on Broadway as Falsettos (1992), Finn’s A New Brain (1998), and Little Miss Sunshine (2013). Additional directing credits range from the 1997 revival of The Diary of Anne Frank and David Henry Hwang’s Golden Child (1998) to William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2005) and the 35th anniversary production of Annie (2012). Lapine co-produced and directed the Emmy nominated HBO documentary Six by Sondheim (2013), and wrote the screenplay for the upcoming film version of Disney’s Into the Woods. He has been nominated for twelve Tony Awards winning on three occasions, including two for Into the Woods, has received five Drama Desk Awards, the Peabody Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 2011, Lapine was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.

Come see Into the Woods and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at PlayMakers November 1 – December 7. For tickets, call 919.962.PLAY (7529) or visit our website.