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Nice is different than good.
– Stephen Sondheim
After the Rodgers and Hammerstein revolution, songs became part of the story, as opposed to just entertainments in between comedy scenes.
My mother wanted me off her hands. She was a working woman. She designed clothes, and she was a celebrity collector. It’s my mother’s ambition to be a celebrity.
I was raised to be charming, not sincere.
One difference between poetry and lyrics is that lyrics sort of fade into the background. They fade on the page and live on the stage when set to music.
Lyrics have to be underwritten. That’s why poets generally make poor lyric writers because the language is too rich. You get drowned in it.
The dumbing down of the country reflects itself on Broadway. The shows get dumber, and the public gets used to them.
The movie adaptations of stage musicals that I’ve seen, without exception, in my opinion don’t work. A lot of people would disagree with me.
Musicals are plays, but the last collaborator is your audience, so you’ve got to wait ’til the last collaborator comes in before you can complete the collaboration.
There’s something inimical about the camera and song.
Musical comedies aren’t written, they are rewritten.
On stage, generally speaking, the story is stopped or held back by songs, because that’s the convention. Audiences enjoy the song and the singer, that’s the point.
Gotta watch out for directors.
You can’t have personal investors anymore because it’s too expensive, so you have to have corporate investment or a lot of rich people.
I don’t listen to recordings of my songs. I don’t avoid it, I just don’t go out of my way to do it.
Generally, the best recording is the original cast, because that’s the way the piece grew: integrally, with them.
A close-up on screen can say all a song can.
When the audience comes in, it changes the temperature of what you’ve written.
I’m interested in the theater because I’m interested in communication with audiences. Otherwise I would be in concert music.
The more restrictions you have, the easier anything is to write.
In the Rodgers and Hammerstein generation, popular hits came out of shows and movies.
I love the theater as much as music, and the whole idea of getting across to an audience and making them laugh, making them cry – just making them feel – is paramount to me.
I prefer neurotic people. I like to hear rumblings beneath the surface.
The fact is popular art dates. It grows quaint. How many people feel strongly about Gilbert and Sullivan today compared to those who felt strongly in 1890?
One of the hardest things about writing lyrics is to make the lyrics sit on the music in such a way that you’re not aware there was a writer there.
Every writer I’ve ever spoken to feels fraudulent in some way or other.
Everyone I used to play with has either given up or is dead.
I played the organ when I went to military school, when I was 10. They had a huge organ, the second-largest pipe organ in New York State. I loved all the buttons and the gadgets. I’ve always been a gadget man.
I fell into lyric writing because of music. I backed into it.
All the best performers bring to their role something more, something different than what the author put on paper. That’s what makes theatre live. That’s why it persists.