Special Episode: Paul Salsini on Chronicling Stephen Sondheim


On today’s special episode, Matt is in conversation with Paul Salsini, the founder and original editor The Sondheim Review. 

For ten years, they exchanged notes, letters, faxes, and phone calls. Stephen Sondheim would contact him, and Paul Salsini, the founder and editor of The Sondheim Review, would respond.

Now, Salsini has described his unlikely long-distance relationship with the fabled composer/lyricist in Sondheim & Me: Revealing a Musical Genius. The book will be released in September by Bancroft Press of Los Angeles, one of the nation’s leading indie publishers.

The memoir includes personal letters that Sondheim sent to Salsini about articles in the magazine. It was clear that he read every word of every issue, and often his comments were “emendations,” pointing out a typo, a wrong first name or a misreading of a scene. Yet it turned into far more!

There were a few disagreements; Sondheim was furious about the magazine’s review of one of his shows and called to loudly complain. After the magazine published his lyrics for a high school show, he wrote to “object vigorously to your reprinting my juvenilia.”

But mostly there was a good working relationship, and Sondheim’s responses were encouraging and sometimes enthusiastic. “Congratulations on another good issue!” “Keep up the good work.”

Sondheim & Me also includes numerous reports of talks, forums, and Q&As in which Sondheim revealed his process for composing, his inspirations, his comments on his shows (the original film of West Side Story “isn’t any good,” the first act of Sunday in the Park with George “is a stunt,” the film of A Little Night Music is “dreadful”).

The magazine reported on the openings of Passion, Saturday Night, and the troubled Mizner musical. The decade also saw the Broadway revivals of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Follies, Into the Woods, and Gypsy and the $10 million Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration with a repertory of six of his musicals.

It was a remarkable decade for Stephen Sondheim, and Paul Salsini and The Sondheim Review were there to report it all.

While the review had nearly 10,000 subscribers, it has remained a mystery to today’s millions of Sondheim fans, worldwide. In his once-quiet retirement, Salsini has opened the vault.

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