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Rainbow Lifelong Learning Institute, Boston

What Makes Sondheim Great?

with Gail Leondar-Wright


Schedule: This course will take place on Wednesdays at 1:00 PM for five weeks during Session 1 (9/15/21 - 10/13/21).  This course will be on Zoom.

Course Description:

Stephen Sondheim is commonly thought to be the most important musical theater composer and lyricist of the past fifty years, and the single most influential force in bringing the Broadway musical into the modern era. What makes him great?

We will unpack some of Sondheim’s major works including Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George, looking for evidence that he is a “playwright in song". We’ll see how Sondheim has elevated the genre ushering in the musical’s modern era. We’ll have opportunities to appreciate and analyze “Send in the Clowns” and “The Ladies Who Lunch,” among others.

Optional, short reading assignments and suggested viewing and listening will be sent to participants as PDFs or links. No purchases will be necessary. Participants will be invited to play pen and paper games and to share their answers.

Readings will include:

  • Sections from The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia (Pender), Finishing the Hat and Look I Made a Hat (Sondheim)
  • Reviews and articles from mainstream media sources.

Enrollment Limit:  Unlimitted

Course Leader:

Gail Leondar-Wright: Gail is now retired, spends her time studying and teaching about the works of Stephen Sondheim. She facilitates the online national “Sondheim Study Group,” and gives periodic webinars comparing the works of Sondheim to those of other composers and lyricists. She has lectured about Sondheim at an MIT intersession course. She has conducted two brown bag presentations about his work for the Rainbow Lifetime Learning Institute. Gail has a Masters in Performance Studies from NYU and a BA in Drama from UC Berkeley.


  • Sep 15 - Oct 13th, 2021
    Wed for 5 weeks from 1:00 - 2:30 pm

Online Class

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