Stephen Sondheim: Master of the Modern Musical

Three Mondays, October 20 and 27 and November 3, 6:00–7:30 P.M. | Three private residences; addresses will be given to subscribers LIMITED ENROLLMENT

For the last 50 years, Stephen Sondheim has been considered one of America’s most talented, innovative, and exciting lyricists and composers. Frank Rich called him “the greatest . . . artist in the American musical theater.” A protégé of Oscar Hammerstein II, Sondheim has composed music and written lyrics for works in the mainstream of musical theater and also for those in a more adventuresome, experimental mode. His lyrics are among the finest ever crafted, and many of his melodies are singable and memorable. Other compositions, however, present challenges to those accustomed to traditional theater music. In this course, Paul Hope will cover both Sondheim’s mainstream and his experimental works, which he will illustrate using vintage film clips and recordings of songs.

Sondheim made his mark as a lyricist with the legendary musicals, West Side Story and Gypsy. His witty, trenchant words and rhymes placed him in the ranks of musical theater’s most talented and accomplished writers. This session will examine Sondheim as a lyricist and will cover his earliest scores.

Sondheim collaborated with Harold Prince during the middle, most productive years of his career. Prince directed six of Sondheim’s major musicals including Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, and Pacific Overtures. Together, they developed what came to be known as the “concept” musical, in which a theme or an idea, rather than traditional narrative, provides the organizing principle. Nevertheless, they did not entirely abandon the art of storytelling: witness such Sondheim-Prince collaborations as A Little Night Music. This session will explore Sondheim’s rich collaboration with Prince during the 1970s.

Following his highly successful work with Harold Prince, Sondheim joined forces with other artists, particularly James Lapine, the playwright and director. Their collaboration resulted in such fascinating works as Sunday in the Park with George, Passion, Assassins, and Into the Woods, based on Grimm’s fairy tales. In the final session, Paul Hope will examine Sondheim’s work with Lapine and assess the overall effects of Sondheim’s unique achievements and his ongoing influence on musical theater.

Paul Hope is a member of the Alley Theatre company and has appeared on the Alley stages for 14 seasons in a wide range of roles. He has also appeared with Theater Under the Stars in Houston and Casa Mañana in Fort Worth. He is the artistic director for Bayou City Concert Musicals, which has presented concert stagings of several Sondheim musicals.

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Welcome to Spring 2018! 

Going Baroque!
Thursday, January 18, 7:30–9:00 p.m. | Christ the King Lutheran Church, 2353 Rice Boulevard at Greenbriar. Parking information distributed to subscribers.


An Intimate Concert of Modern and Contemporary Music of Mexico
Tuesday, January 23, 6:30-8:00 P.M.
Private home. Address to subscribers.

Comida en la Cuidad
Tuesday, February 6, noon | Caracol Restaurant, 2200 Post Oak Boulevard, 77056


Modern Architecture in Mexico City
Tuesday, February 20, 12:00-1:30 P.M. | Moody Center for the Arts, Rice University


Thomas Jefferson: The Essential Democrat
Three Wednesdays, February 21, 28 and March 7, 6:30-8:00 P.M. | Covenant Church, 4949 Caroline, 77004



For additional information about any of our courses, to register offline, or to add your name to our mailing and/or email lists, please contact our adminstrator at  or phone 713.666.9000.