Paul Salsini Gets Personal About Sondheim in New Book.
Paul Salsini is no stranger to Stephen Sondheim, as he edited The Sondheim Review for ten years, with the not-needed but certainly desired permission from the musical bard himself. Stephen Sondheim, whose scores offer opportunity for discourse, discussion, and debate, is a titan who, was a meticulously involved fan of the periodical, in his own way, that is. In Mr. Salsini’s newest book, Sondheim and Me: Revealing a Musical Genius, readers are treated to a splendid narrative of letters, anecdotes, commentary, and history of Sondheim’s work.
Mr. Salsini provides a chronological road of Sondheim’s work--and his own work with The Sondheim Review--with how the periodical utilized a passion for Sondheim in the context of respect for his work and legacy Sondheim was bound to have. Salsini lets readers in on Sondheim’s phone calls and letters they shared, giving corrections, humbly put praise, and imbuing confidence that, though Sondheim himself was skeptical of there being enough material to justify The Sondheim Review, acknowledged the Review of being a scholarly record of his work.
What works so well for Mr. Salsini, an author of eleven books in addition to his work as an educator, editor, and reporter, is that he balances giving voice to the provided records of interviews (not just with Sondheim) or his shows (and not just the popular ones) and then getting out of the way and letting Sondheim’s words take effect. Salsini’s prose and narrative structure make his Sondheim and Me a page-turner for those who know Sondheim deeply or—like me--who want to get to know him better.
In Sondheim and Me, readers are privy to Sondheim’s process of trying to get up the multi-retitled-and-re-worked musical, Road Show, what he thought of several of the film adaptations of his musicals, and his own, occasional, quibbles with how Salsini and company reviewed and justified publishing certain articles of Sondheim’s work. The book itself is structured much like one of Sondheim’s triumphs: multiple characters you care for, a plot which you’re comfortable sitting in, and a love for the words being given to you.
In Salsini’s chapter on the Carol Burnett-led Putting it Together—a lesser-known, less-successful musical revue in his catalog—director Eric Schaeffer says, “Each song has to stand on its own. The biggest thing we want to do is make Steve’s words sing. That’s our first priority…It’s really like rediscovering these songs again, which is really kind of exciting.” This directorial intent from Mr. Schaeffer is precisely what Salsini has accomplished with Sondheim and Me. The chapters stand on their own; you will rediscover Mr. Stephen Sondheim in a new way; this story sings his tunes and tales as if for the first time; and it allows fans of the modern American musical to further appreciate exactly what Sondheim gifted us for so many decades.
Sondheim and Me: Revealing a Musical Genius is published by Bancroft Press and is available for order wherever books are sold.