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Stephen Sondheim : 'Someone in a Tree' from 'Anatomy of a Song'

Year: 1976, 28 mins
Code: CAT-Step

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Stephen Sondheim, composer-lyricist; John Weidman, writer; and Frank Rich, theater critic, in a close study of how one Broadway musical song came to be: "Someone in a Tree" from "Pacific Overtures". Members of the Broadway cast join Sondheim in a rousing performance of the number.

Filmed in Sondheim's apartment in New York City. Members of the cast of "Pacific Overtures": Mako, James Dybas, Geddie Watanabe, Mark Hsu Syers.

"It's my favorite song of anything I've written,"
Sondheim says. He demonstrates how he created the song, how the music tracks the libretto, gaining complexity and tension as the text becomes more urgent, how the song becomes a study of perceiving details in a seamless world.

In the mid 70's Stephen Sondheim was already a celebrated composer-lyricist, increasingly fascinated with myth and history, when he undertook the musical "Pacific Overtures", based on John Weidman's play about the collision of cultures of 1853 that occurred when Commander Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay to end once and for all Japan's isolation from the West. As the work took shape the key scene became the actual meeting of east and west in the negotiators' "treaty house"; yet the audience is told what happens only from the reports of an old man, and a young boy who saw it, or some of it, from a tree. He was so young, did he know what he saw? Nevertheless, he was "Someone in a Tree."

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