One in this series of programs on the performing and visual arts. In this edition, host Frank Rich explores the process of creating a song for the musical theater. Here he interviews composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim at his New York City home along with librettist John Weidman about their collaboration on the current Broadway production of "Pacific Overtures." Weidman begins by recalling his idea to write a play about Commodore Matthew Perry's penetration of isolationist Japan in 1853, and the steps that caused Weidman's work eventually to become a musical. Sondheim explains the novel technique he devised in order to tell the story of an undramatic historical moment, the signing of a Japanese-American treaty in the song "Someone in a Tree." Sondheim sings a portion of it to demonstrate how the music reflects the frustration of the old man in the play, talks about the process he uses to write music, how music and lyrics fit together, and shows how he adapts the Japanese art of relentless repetition in the song's accompaniment. The composer and librettist both remember the emotional impact of the song's completion, and four members of "Pacific Overture's" original cast, Mako, James Dybas, Gedde Watanabe, and Mark Hsu Syers, are joined by Sondheim on the piano to perform "Someone in a Tree."

(This series also aired locally on WCBS-TV in New York from 1953 to 1956 and on PBS from 1979 to 1980.)


  • DATE: March 28, 1976 Sunday 11:00 AM
  • RUNNING TIME: 0:29:00
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:57426
  • GENRE: Arts documentaries
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Composers
  • SERIES RUN: CBS - TV series, 1956-1979


    • Stephen Paley … Producer
    • John Musilli … Director
    • Stephen Sondheim … Composer, Lyricist
    • John Weidman … Librettist
    • Frank Rich … Host, Interviewer
    • Stephen Sondheim … Performer, Guest
    • James Dybas … Singer
    • Mako … Singer
    • Mark Hsu Syers … Singer
    • Gedde Watanabe … Singer
    • John Weidman … Guest
    • Matthew Perry