Actor Hub’s Favourite Stephen Sondheim Songs

Actor Hub’s Favourite Sondheim Songs
Choosing a favourite Sondheim song is like asking me to choose a favourite pizza topping!

It all depends on my mood!

Some days I’m a bit more Unworthy of your Love whereas others I just fancy Broadway Baby – Just like some days I’m a bit Ham and Pineapple and sometimes I fancy caper-berries with pinenuts!!

Here is my current selection, and why I love them. Click on the videos and listen to some wonderful performances.

We would love to know what your favourite is, let us know via Twitter @actorhub.

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  • A wonderful song from one of Sondheim’s less commercially popular shows.
    This song is about how history is subjective. An old man, his ten year old self, and a warrior recall the signing of a treaty. Each account is different according to what each of them had glimpsed or overheard.
    The song is funny, inspiring and suspenseful whilst really being about what it means to be human.
    Just hearing it doesn’t do it justice – you need to see it being performed.
  • Road Show is a Stephen Sondheim musical which was previously called Bounce, it was workshopped in 1999 and opened in 2003 and a revised version opened 2008.
    It tells the story of the Mizner brother’s , Addison and Wilson, and their adventures across America at the turn of the 20th century.
    Addison has left behind is gabling, swindling brother Wilson and is heading to Florida to take advantage of the property boom there in the early 1920s. On the train he meets Hollis Bessemer who he falls in love with.
    Hollis has been cut off from his family for persuing his love of art, he hasn’t the talent to become an artist but is heading to Florida to create an artist’s colony on Palm Beach with his aunt. This is the told via the song Talent.
    Any Sondheim song at an audition is always a brave choice, but this is from his most recent show which was not a success and is so probably not done as often as the other classics.
    It is a great song for auditioning as it is about love for art and is a lovely ‘story song’ which will show off your acting and singing.
  • ‘Everybody Ought To Have A Maid’ is such a funny song, full of all of the wonderful double-entendre’s and saucy, naughty fun which makes Funny thing Happened probably one of Sondheim’s most non-stop funny shows!
    This song is simple, hilarious, completely infectious and really clever but totally uncomplicated. In my mind it is one of Broadway’s most perfect songs.
  • An amazing song which just begs to be performed and lived.
    The song is full of bitterness, resentment and depression.
    What begins as a witty, sardonic song sung by a clever, witty and sardonic character to a bossa-nova beat, suddenly changes as Joanne begins to sing it about herself and to Bobby.
    So here’s to the girls on the go, Everybody tries. Look into their eyes, And you’ll see what they know: Everybody dies.
    This powerful ending lets us see the terror behind the song, and the emotional heart of this song and character. Watch Elaine Stritch and how this ending happens not with showy vibrato but with guts and honesty.
  • Finishing The Hat is a perfect song for us actors, artists and creatives to relate to. It is about our creativity at work – how we can put something out there which wasn’t there before and the sacrifices we have to make.
    For me personally this song is a tour-de-force of songwriting with music which seems to perfectly capture the spirit of the song.
    Handle with care if you choose to do it for an audition or casting but if you do then really handle it as an acting piece and act the socks off it!
  • ‘Barcelona’ is the ultimate ‘morning-after-the-night-before’ song!
    Actually is it the only ‘morning-after-the-night-before’ song? Is this a new mini-genre? Trust Sondhiem to create a new genre of song and to do it so damn well!
    This wonderful little song is perfection! Witty, concise, and beautiful!
  • Good Thing Going is another example of a perfect sweet, simple but also so, so clever, Sondheim song.
    It comes from the musical Merrily We Roll Along which was a huge flop when it originally played.
    The song perfectly expresses the feeling of looking back at a relationship. In the show the song is rejected by some producers as not being ‘hummable’!
    The song is one of those haunting Sondheim songs which plays in your mind a long time after you’ve heard it.
    It isn’t big and showy, its small, heartfelt and perfect – just like love!
  • Murder has never sounded so beautiful as it does in this perfect blend from Sondheim’s dark melodrama Sweeney Todd.
    This sequence has to be one of my favourite moments from all of Sondheim’s work. It is the perfect combination of all of the themes of the show and reminds the audience of all of the threads of this melodrama and how they are all beginning to knit together.
    Each sequence is completely unique and appropriate to the characters involved but they blend together to create musical perfection.
  • Losing My Mind from Follies is one of those Sondheim songs, like Send In The Clowns, which has flown the coop and made the transition from musical theatre to mainstream.
    Great songwriting which works equally well inside the show and characters but can also work on its own, which makes it a good audition choice (although probably overdone which means you will be compared to many who have gone before)
    The melody is haunting and the song is full of heartbreak and pain in the everyday and commonplace ‘the coffee cup, I think about you’. This song is about hearbreak, loss, desperation and emotional breakdown.
    Do it justice and surrender your heart.
  • ‘A Little Night Music’ is a deliciously funny comedy of manners and ‘In Praise Of Women’ is my favourite song from this show.
    It is sung by the wonderfully self-important Carl-Magnus and is just perfectly clever as he sings all about both Desiree his lover and Charlotte his wife.
    Fidelity is more than mere display; It’s what a man expects from life. Fidelity like mine to Desiree And Charlotte, my devoted wife.
    The song also ends on a belting F-sharp, which could win over any audition panel (if you get to the end of the song, of course!?)
  • Sweeney Todd is a delicious melodrama and this song is a wonderful moment of dark beauty.
    Two men together, both have loved the same woman, one is about to slit the other’s throat for stealing her.
    They join in song, hearts and mind for one moment.
    Steven Slater the lyricist of Spring Awakening chose this as his all time favourite Sondheim song:
    A long melodic line of yearning, followed by the swift pulsing need to count the ways of female beauty – ‘Letter writing/Flower picking’ — as if the mind were chasing after the legato of the heart. It is surely one of the most sublime and arresting moments of song-as-theatre.
  • The song ‘Move On’ comes right at the end of the wonderful musical Sunday In The Park With George, and is quite simply one of my favourite songs both in and out of musical theatre!
    The song talks directly to you when you need to make a decision in life, or are contemplating a change. It has helped me so much.
    “Stop worrying where you’re going- Move on. If you can know where you’re going. You’ve gone. Just keep moving on”
    Here is what Stephen Schwartz, the composer-lyricist of Wicked has to say about the song “I was at a very low point in my life and career and feeling extremely discouraged. When I heard it, I felt as if it had been written for me to tell me what I needed to hear, and it helped to bolster my will to continue writing”
  • Another Hundred People is one of those songs which just resonates perfectly with young actors. The dream of moving to the big city, the excitement of being a part of a bustling metropolis!
    It has a fast paced rhythm and a pulsing beat which echos the hustle and bustle of New York. The character of Marta is singing about the veneer which she has built up by living in this ‘city of strangers’, She sings of how she loves this disconnected city, she knows that she is not what Bobby needs, throughout the song we see glimpses and shadows of Marta’s yearning for vulnerability.
    A wonderful song full of character and emotion.
  • A beautiful love song sung as two lovers part ways.
    Surely this has to be one of Sondheim’s most romantic, beautiful and lush songs.
    “Thanks for everything we did, Everything that’s past, Everything’s that’s over too fast. None of it was wasted.”
    This is a song which always touches me and like all of Sondheim’s best songs it conveys a simple message with clever lyrics and music.
  • The whole of Sunday In The Park with George is perfection for me. The show speaks directly to those of us who choose to create for others, and make sacrifices to do so.
    ‘Beautiful’ is just that, a beautiful song from a beautiful show. It is a heartbreaking song about life moving on and people leaving us – try to capture the now before it has become the then.
    ‘Pretty isn’t beautiful, Mother – Pretty is what changes – What the eye arranges is what is beautiful.’
  • Knowing your history of musical theatre is really important as a performer. Here is a brief look at the life and works of Stephen Sondheim, along with our favourite Sondheim songs to read about and listen to.
  • Sondheim doesn’t necessarily write the easiest songs to use in auditions – but his songs do show off acting ability so well that it is a shame to not sing them. Here are some uptempo songs which might work for you.
  • Singing Sondheim is never recommended for auditions, but if the song really speaks to you and you think you can put your own spin on it then break that ‘rule’ and give it a go. Here are our favourite Sondheim ballads.