Stephen Sondheim Wrote Many Successful Shows On Broadway. This Is The List Of The Top Ten Broadway Productions Featuring Music And Lyrics By The Late Great Stephen Sondheim
Top 10 Best Stephen Sondheim Productions That Have Played on Broadway
To say that Stephen Joshua Sondheim was one of the greatest American composers and lyricists of the Americas musical theatre would be an understatement of epic proportions. Sondheim was a consummate storyteller creating some of the most memorable musical moments in Broadway history.
We have compiled a list of Stephen Sondheim’s highlights on Broadway. While we didn’t include shows for which he only contributed lyrics (West Side Story, Gypsy), in this list everything’s coming up Sondheim!
10. Company (2006)
Often credited as being one of the first concept musicals (more idea, less plot), this New York tale about perennial bachelor Bobby on a quest for love features a groovy 70s style score. Broadway has mounted a few revivals (including a 2021 gender swap in the leading role to give the property a more modern take) but it’s the 2006 version in which John Doyle tasked his cast with playing their own instruments that served the story best.
9. Follies (2001)
In the spring of 2001, the Roundabout Theatre produced a revival of this memory play of sorts, in which a group of performers reunite at a crumbling theatre slated for demolition. They’re haunted by ghosts of their younger selves. While the 1985 Lincoln Center staged concert can’t be beat for its vocals (Barbara Cook, anyone?), the limited run at the Belasco gorgeously tapped into the haunting power of nostalgia, with exquisite performances by the likes of Blythe Danner and Treat Williams.
8. A Little Night Music (2009)
It’s not the flashiest of the Sondheim oeuvre, but A Little Night Music boasts not only Sondheim’s most famous song but one of the most popular American standards period: Send In The Clowns. In the lush 2009 iteration of this romantic musical about the amorous entanglements of several couples, audiences were treated to veritable royalty in the form of Angela Lansbury and also her replacement, Elaine Stritch.
7. Sondheim on Sondheim (2010)
No, it’s not technically a production of a Sondheim show per se, but this revue conceived by Sondheim’s longtime collaborator James Lapine, put the wunderkind composer/lyricist front and center. The innovative show featured a stellar live cast including Vanessa Williams and Norm Lewis as well as projections of Sondheim who offered revealing information about his life and his creative process. He even penned a delightful new song, God, for the occasion. This offering was an education, and a must-see for any Sondheim acolyte.
6. Merrily We Roll Along (2023)
Based on the Kaufman and Hart play of the same name, this famous Broadway flop about three friends with creative minds and big dreams— which closed unceremoniously after 16 official performances in 1981— may finally have a good thing going. New York Theatre Workshop staged a boffo revival of the story told backwards. That widely heralded version starring Daniel Radcliffe and Jonathan Groff opens on Broadway late in 2023.
5. Assassins (2004)
It’s hard to believe that this masterwork which delves into the psyche of a group of Presidential assassins did not have its Broadway debut until 2004 despite having premiered at Playwrights Horizons in 1990. Well, it was worth the wait. This Roundabout Theatre production (which itself was delayed due to 9/11) played like an exploded American history textbook, guts and all. The cast featured Neil Patrick Harris, Denis O’Hare and Sondheim muse Michael Cerveris.
4. A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (1996)
A comedy tonight, indeed! Well, that’s what happens when you’ve got comic genius Nathan Lane anchoring an already bawdy, hilarious musical. He played the long suffering Pseudolus, longing to be free, and won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor for his riotous performance. This revival truly brought new life to the classic Roman farce, which was a composite of the plays of Plautus. The Jerry Zaks helmed production ran for a healthy 715 performances.
3. Into the Woods (2022)
The original production of this dark fairy tale mashup is pretty consummate. But in 2022, when the world needed something uplifting— but not too rosy— the star studded revival was just what audiences craved. The cast featured a host of Broadway luminaries across its run, including Neil Patrick Harris, Gavin Creel, Heather Headley, Stephanie J. Block, Sara Bareilles, Phillipa Soo and Cheyenne Jackson. When you put together such a monumental theatrical event, children— and adults— will listen.
2. Sweeney Todd (2005)
Everyone has their favorite Sweeney and well, it’s hard to choose just one. The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is one of the most demanding roles in all of musical theatre, one that has been played to great acclaim by Len Cariou, Josh Groban, George Hearn and on film, Johnny Depp. But it’s the 2005 John Doyle directed revival starring Michael Cerveris and a tuba toting Patti LuPone as Mrs. Lovett that takes the, um, pie.
1. Sunday in the Park With George (1984)
Sometimes you just can’t improve upon perfection. In 1984, Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters starred as pointillism pioneer Georges Seurat and his muse Dot, respectively, and musical theatre was never the same. Finishing the Hat became the proverbial metaphor for the painstaking creative process and while there have been many stunning revivals, nobody could ever compare to the way Patinkin and Peters brought Seurat’s painting to life.