Stephen Sondheim on Commercialization of Broadway, Wants “Supermarket of Musicals”

By James Knight on Mar 16, 2016 05:11 PM EDT

Famed Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim (Company, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd) has never been afraid to take a risk. While each of his works maintain certain signatures, they don’t all fit the same cookie pattern. Sondheim’s song structure varies far from the norm. So it is no wonder that Sondheim wants more variety from Broadway. Recently, Sondheim came out against the commercialisation of Broadway, calling for a “supermarket of musicals.”

During a speaking event at the National Theatre, Stephen Sondheim addressed the Broadway’s taste for commercial theater (via

“Commercial theatre is so financially fragile, I wish there were more of a supermarket of musicals -- different kinds of musicals.”

Sondheim went on to speak about the fickle nature of Broadway musicals:

“What happens is: once the first jukebox musical became popular, a lot of jukebox musicals [were made]. I understand why, but it would be nice to have other kinds of musicals… In New York, anyway, you can find a good deal of that variety Off-Broadway, but you can’t make enough of a living Off-Broadway to support a family...And Broadway tends to -- as with the West End -- have certain kinds of musicals that prove popular, and then when they don’t prove popular they disappear, and another takes over.”

However, the problem isn’t solely a Broadway problem, but the living nature of the industry can make it more harmfull:

“It’s the same thing with all art forms, which is: young people need means of getting their work heard, or paintings on the wall, or shows on the stage. The big thing about the theatre, as opposed to the other art forms, is that it has to be performed. It has to be tried out in front of an audience, it doesn’t exist in the library when you write it. So young writers and middle-aged writers and some old writers need a place where their work can be heard. If that were going on, that would be great.”

What do you think about Stephen Sondheim’s comments? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

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TagsStephen Sondheim, Speaks, Against, Commercialization, broadway, Wants, Supermarket of Musicals

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