Stephen Sondheim made his brilliant Broadway debut as the lyricist for Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story score in 1957. Since then he has fulfilled his promise as a Broadway composer many times over, but he has also developed a cult following around his numerous failures and eccentricities. How can someone so good also be so bad?
In the fall 2004 City Journal, Stefan Kanfer meditated knowledgeably and at length on this interesting question. His essay provides the deep satisfaction of seeing justice done to an interesting but difficult subject. Kanfer’s essay is “Sondheim vs. Sondheim.”
Stefan Kanfer is the former Time editor/writer who seems to have taken up writing about popular culture almost full time. His most recent books are biographies of Groucho Marx and Lucille Ball.
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