Praise from Jesse Green, New York Times Chief Theater Critic, Arts, in the 2023 Holiday Gift Guide: “From A (the director George Abbott) to Y ('You Could Drive a Person Crazy'), The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia, by Rick Pender, offers an astonishingly comprehensive look, in more than 130 entries, at the late master’s colleagues, songs, shows and methods."
The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia is a wonderfully detailed and comprehensive reference devoted to musical theater’s most prolific and admired composer and lyricist. Entries cover Sondheim’s numerous collaborators, from composers and directors to designers and orchestras; key songs, such as his Academy Award winner “Sooner or Later” (Dick Tracy); and major works, including Assassins, Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, and West Side Story. The encyclopedia also profiles the actors who originated roles and sang Sondheim’s songs for the first time, including Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Mandy Patinkin, and Bernadette Peters.
Featuring a detailed biographical entry for Sondheim, a chronology of his career, a listing of his many awards, and discussions of his opinions on movies, opera, and more, this wide-ranging resource will attract musical theater enthusiasts again and again.
Rick Pender has been an award-winning theater critic since 1986. He has written for CityBeat, Cincinnati’s alternative newsweekly, since it was founded in 1994. In 2002 and again in 2017, the Society of Professional Journalists named him Ohio’s best critic. Pender is past chair of the American Theatre Critics Association and was the executive editor and publisher of Everything Sondheim and managing editor of The Sondheim Review.
About the Author
As the former executive editor and publisher of the website Everything Sondheim and managing editor of The Sondheim Review, Pender has impeccable credentials for producing this volume. The alphabetically arranged entries cover all aspects of Sondheim’s career, including all musicals and other works and significant personnel such as George Abbott and Arthur Laurents. Ten songs are covered in depth to illustrate the breadth and depth of Sondheim’s composition, and additional essays cover such varied topics as favorite films, opera, and musical likes (and dislikes). Essays on individual shows include synopses of production history, musical numbers, scores, critical reviews, recordings, and original cast and characters; all essays are well written and focused on facts rather than Pender’s opinions…[T[his encyclopedia is required reading for those interested in musical theater, and it will be particularly valuable when read in conjunction with Hat Box: The Collected Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim (2011). Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals; general readers.
Assembling this comprehensive compendium of Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930)—one of the most widely regarded and important figures in 20th-century musical theater—was no small task. Pender, a theater critic who has written extensively about Sondheim for years, makes an impressive effort to do justice to his subject in a single hefty volume. Alphabetically arranged entries cover Sondheim’s work (Into the Woods; Company; Follies), his collaborators (Larry Gelbart) and influences (Oscar Hammerstein), and people who performed in his shows (Elaine Stritch; Angela Lansbury). Pender supplements each entry with references for readers who want to go even deeper into the scholarship. Pender’s expansive reporting on Sondheim’s productions, cohorts, and collaborators goes beyond biography to give readers a wider historical view of American musical theater. The book is ostensibly a reference work aimed at enthusiasts (of which Sondheim has many), but casual theater and performing arts fans will find much to appreciate as well.
Besides being knowledgeable about Greater Cincinnati's theater history, [Pender] is one of the foremost scholars writing about the work of Sondheim, who many regard as America's finest musical theater composers and lyricists. For many years, Pender was the executive editor and publisher of the "Everything Sondheim' website and managing editor of a quarterly journal called "The Sondheim Review." ... Besides a predictably comprehensive entry about Sondheim and nearly every aspect of his career, the book offers information about Sondheim's many collaborators, from directors and producers to singers who created notable roles in his various works.
A wonderful encyclopedia on all things Sondheim that you will love reading. You can start anywhere from A to Y. He’s still writing Z.
The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia is impressive in its depth and detail and a fitting testament to Steve’s extraordinary work. It’s also a lot of fun for any musical theater fan to endlessly peruse.
Anyone who's been touched by Stephen Sondheim's extraordinary body of work will be grateful for this bottomless well of facts, figures, anecdotes and insights. A remarkable and entertaining resource.
This encyclopedia is a remarkable achievement, essential for all students of Sondheim and all lovers of the American musical. I will devour it for years to come.
We Sondheim fans tend to hop around through his extraordinary body of work, one day wondering who else was in Evening Promrose (Dorothy Stickney) or how many Tonys were won by the actors who played Pseudolus on Broadway (all of them) – and now Rick Pender has given us the perfect book to find all the answers. Although it is a resource encyclopedia, it’s hard not to start at the beginning and read every word like a novel. Rick has done an amazing job – it is always readable and is chock full of interesting tidbits. No matter how much you know about Sondheim and his work, you will learn new things in this book. I certainly did!
Rick Pender did it right. If you were to go to anyone else’s work to check on, say, Jerome Robbins, you’d probably find a quick reference to three musicals on which he and Sondheim collaborated. But Pender goes the extra nineteen yards and also tells you all about Robbins before and after Sondheim. Yes, this is an encyclopedia, and a damn fine one, but it’s delicious reading, too. Don’t be surprised if you go to it for a fact only to stay around to read for the next few hours or even days. It's that entertaining – a term one doesn't usually associate with an encyclopedia, but one that must be used here.
Who needs an encyclopedia in the age of the internet? It turns out that when the subject is the inexhaustible career of composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, nothing less than a capacious volume will do. Rick Pender, former editor of The Sondheim Review, has compiled a trove of detailed entries about nearly every subject Sondheim touched, bringing to life not only the man’s well-known collaborators and projects but also many names you may have glimpsed in programs or on cast albums, as well as gathering definitive descriptions of lesser-known works and influences that you’d have to search dozens of books to cull. What emerges is an indispensable 360-degree portrait not only of an essential American artist but of the culture that shaped him and that he in turn helped to shape.
A commodious compendium of Sondheimiana. Rick Pender has compiled a mosaic puzzle which will send you off on all sorts of delightfully arcane, sorry-grateful tangents.
“How to honor a great teacher? In his labor-of-love compendium, Rick Pender invites us to join him — everyone who has been inspired by Stephen Sondheim’s art, and (for those of us who were lucky) his correspondence: I for one go back 51 years — I was 18 — when he encouraged my devotion to musical theater. And the best part of this book is the profound reminder embedded in the history: that Sondheim, like all great teachers, pushed us to see life in new and breathtaking ways.
I’m having the best time leafing through Richard’s thoughtfully and thoroughly collected volume, discovering a wealth of new facts and stories about our most treasured musical theater composer (and his shows) at every turn. It’s an impressive text that’s at the same time scholarly and great fun. Despite being exhaustively researched, it’s almost less an encyclopedic and more a kaleidoscopic look at the entire world of Steve’s work from a thousand different angles, one that reveals new connections and different perspectives with each turn. It might be the first encyclopedia I can imagine reading cover to cover. But you could just as easily turn to any random page and start reading—and find yourself hours later still thumbing through the wealth of details and stories behind not just the work, but the hundreds of collaborators and performers who have been the conveyors of Sondheim’s gifts to the world. It’s a gift to theater lovers on both sides of the footlights, likely to be on the desks of audiences and artists alike. And it’s a gift to future generations someday, who won’t have been as lucky as we have been to live and work in the days of Stephen Sondheim.
[The] book is a valuable resource for exploring the world of Sondheim and his circle of collaborators and interpreters. The biographical information for his interpreters is certainly interesting, focusing on their interactions with Sondheim’s works, but also how their Sondheim performances fit into their careers. Obviously, much of this information may become dated, and pleasantly reminds me of chasing Wikipedia references down the rabbit hole. Still, Pender should be commended for single-handedly taking on a reference work of this size, and The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia is a valuable addition to any musical theater collection.
10/1/23, New York Times: This is featured in the Holiday Gift Guide and Jesse Green, Chief Theater Critic, Arts, says: “From A (the director George Abbott) to Y (‘You Could Drive a Person Crazy’), The StephenSondheim Encyclopedia, by Rick Pender, offers an astonishingly comprehensive look, in more than 130 entries, at the late master’s colleagues, songs, shows and methods.”
4/15/21 - WGVU, a PBS/NPR affiliate radio station, interviewed author Rick Pender for a segment about the book. Link: https://www.wgvunews.org/post/stephen-sondheim-encyclopedia
4/16/21 - Theater Mania announced the publication of this title in their BookNews section. Link: https://www.theatermania.com/new-york-city-theater/news/new-stephen-sondheim-encyclopedia-released_92140.html
4/22/21 - WAMC’s “The Best of Our Knowledge” Show dedicated a 30-minute episode to the book. Link: https://www.wamc.org/post/best-our-knowledge-1596-stephen-sondheim-encyclopedia
4/22/21 - The Theatre Podcast with Alan Seales interviewed author Rick Pender on an episode about him and his book. Link: https://www.broadwayworld.com/off-broadway/article/LISTEN-Rick-Pender-Joins-THE-THEATRE-PODCAST-WITH-ALAN-SEALES-20210422
6/2/21, Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Article profiles author Rick Pender and the book.
12/5/21, Cincinnati Enquirer: Rick Pender and the book are highlighted in this tribute to the late Stephen Sondheim.
12/17/21, Herald-Tribune: Pender’s book was featured in this article for capturing the spirit of Sondheim.
1/6/22, Library Journal: Rick Pender was interviewed on the "Challenge and Opportunity of Summing Up Stephen Sondheim."
1/10/22, Choice: The review for this title was featured as the Choice “Review of the Week.”
3/16/22, Library Journal: LJ featured this book in a news article on the best reference selections from 2021.
4/29/22, Choice: This book was featured in a roundup of top community college titles for the month of April 2022.