Dec 302010

appeared on ABC’s ‘Night­line’ on Tues­day night, and dur­ing the inter­view, the theater legend dis­closed that he found the words to his 1957 mas­ter­piece  ‘’, writ­ten with and — are you ready for this? — “embar­rass­ing.” What?

Most of the lyr­ics were sort of … they were very self-conscious. Bern­stein wanted the songs to be … heavy, what he called ‘poetic,’ and my idea of poetry and his idea of poetry are polar oppos­ites. I don’t mean that they are ter­rible, I just mean they’re so self-conscious.”

There is one bad song in par­tic­u­lar that stands out for , one that Jack Nich­olson turned into a hil­ari­ous par­ody in the film, ‘Anger Man­age­ment,’ as many oth­ers have done.

West Side Story
Image via Wiki­pe­dia

’”I’m fond of quot­ing ‘I Feel Pretty’. The street girl is singing, ‘It’s alarm­ing how charm­ing I feel.’ … I just put my head under my wing and pre­tend I’m not there.”

Long­time fans of Sond­heim, who turned 80 this year, may have heard many of the anec­dotes he men­tions on the “Night­line” seg­ment and in his new (and first) book, “Fin­ish­ing the Hat.” But it’s still fun hear­ing insights from that mod­est guy behind such land­mark music­als as “,” “,” “Gypsy” and “Into the Woods.” Like the fact that he writes lying down. Or that he’d like to rewrite some of his clas­sic songs.

Art needs sur­prise; oth­er­wise, it doesn’t hold an audience’s atten­tion. Theater needs sur­prise,” he said. “So I like to sur­prise myself, and I want to sur­prise an audience.”

There’s even a Broad­way theater named after him. Earlier this year, the Henry Miller Theater on West 43rd Street in New York City became the Stephen Sond­heim Theater, another event in his career that the com­poser was some­what uncom­fort­able with.

“Embar­rass­ing. Thrill­ing but embar­rass­ing,” Sond­heim said. “First of all, I’ve never been fond of my name. ‘Sond­heim’ … doesn’t sing.”

Per­haps it was no sur­prise that Sond­heim saved his most bit­ing words for crit­ics who review his shows (not always kindly):

I think it’s the only one of the arts that is mostly reviewed by ignora­muses, people who know noth­ing about what they’re writ­ing about.”

Ouch! Well, no one can say Sond­heim doesn’t have a way with words. After all, he is the man who wrote “Send in the Clowns.”

via Stephen Sond­heim calls his ‘West Side Story’ lyr­ics ‘embar­rass­ing’ | Cul­ture Mon­ster | Los Angeles Times

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