On Monday, HBO presents the premiere of Six by Sondheim, a new TV special that's part biography, part music-appreciation lesson and part performance piece. It's all about the life and music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, in which he explains, among many other things, how and why he became a musical theater composer and lyricist, and the inspirations for some of his most familiar songs. If you're new to the works of Stephen Sondheim, this TV special should entice you. If you're already a fan, it should delight you.
The films of Joel and Ethan Coen pose a challenge: How do we reconcile their wildly disparate tones? Consider O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a burlesque of Homer's Odyssey centering on three stumblebums — but with a soundtrack assembled by T Bone Burnett of heartfelt historical gospel and country music. Ditto The Ladykillers: venal idiot characters, soaring African-American spirituals. The ridiculous and the sublime sit side by side, with no spillover.
Seleka fighters pose for a photograph in Bossangoa, Central African Republic, on Nov. 25. The landlocked country has been gripped by violence since the mainly Muslim rebels seized power in the majority Christian country in March.
Credit Florence Richard / AP
Displaced people fleeing Seleka fighting regroup in a camp in Bossangoa, Central African Republic, on Nov. 26.
Credit Florence Richard / AP
Fighters from a Christian militia known as the anti-balaka have emerged to defend towns and in some cases attack Muslim communities. These men display their makeshift weaponry in Boubou, Central African Republic, on Nov. 26.
After months of worsening violence, the United Nations voted Thursday to send French and African troops to the Central African Republic in an attempt to restore stability.
Brutal sectarian violence has engulfed the mostly Christian country since March, when the first Muslim leader assumed power after a coup.
Armed gangs of Muslim extremists joined by mercenaries from neighboring countries now control most of the country. Armed Christian forces are fighting back. Slaughter, rape and torture are widely reported.
Sondheim, shown here in 1974, won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Sunday in the Park with George. He has also received eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy awards and a Kennedy Center Honor.
Sondheim (left) wrote the lyrics for West Side Story; classical-music superstar Leonard Bernstein (center) was the composer, Jerome Robbins the director and choreographer. The story of the show's genesis is told in the special NPR series 50 Years of West Side Story.
Credit Staff/Hulton Archives / Getty Images
Zero Mostel starred as Pseudolus in the bawdy farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The musical was the first to feature Sondheim's music and lyrics.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne. This morning, in Soweto, South Africa, crowds continue to congregate around the family home of Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday. During the struggle against apartheid, Soweto became a symbol of the separation of the races, both physically and economically.