Pacific Overtures
Composer: Stephen J Sondheim
Composer Bio: Award winning composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim does not consider his musicals to be Broadway Operas but they have been embraced as such wholeheartedly. Blurring the lines between musical theatre and traditional opera, he has written music and lyrics for some of the 20th century’s most important stage works for voice, incorporating both humorous and dark subject matter.

Born into a Jewish family in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Sondheim showed early ability in both music and mathematics. After the departure of his father at age ten, he moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania where he gained an important musical role model, Oscar Hammerstein II. Watching the success of Rodgers and Hammerstein as a teenager and already guided toward musical theatre he studied piano and wrote scripts and scores during his four years at Williams College, earning him a two year composition scholarship studying with avant-garde composer Milton Babbitt.

Sondheim’s breakthrough came with his lyrics to Leonard Bernstein’s musical West Side Story in 1957. The collaboration's success earned him a multitude of creative partnerships before finally writing both the music and lyrics for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1962. Recognized as a master of songwriting he went on to win multiple Tony and Grammy Awards as well as an Academy Award for Best Song and the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
Librettist: Stephen J Sondheim
Other Artistic Personnel: Harold Prince (Director)
Patricia Birch (Choreography)
Boris Aronson (Production Design)
Florence Klotz (Costume Design)
Tharon Musser (Lighting Design)
Haruki Fujimoto (Kabuki Consultant)
Richard Allen (Makeup and Wig Design)
E.J. Taylor (Masks and Dolls)
Daniel Troob (Dance Music)
Paul Gemignani (Musical Direction)
Jonathan Tunick (Orchestration)
Original Cast: Mako (Reciter, Shogun, Jonathan Goble)
Soon-Teck Oh (Tamate, Kayama's Wife, Samurai, Storyteller, Swordsman)
Isao Sato (Kayama)
Yuki Shimoda (Abe, First Councillor)
Sab Shimono (Manjiro)
Ernest Abuba (Samurai, Adams, Noble)
James Dybas (Second Councillor, Old Man, French Admiral)
Premiere Date: January 11, 1976
Producing Company: Winter Garden Theatre
Description: From the point of view of a traditional samurai, Kayama Yasaemon, and a fisherman, Manjiro, Pacific Overtures traces the changing Japanese identity through their challenging Westernization. Set in 1853 it follows from Japan’s first contact with America through the modern age. While Kayama embraces Western culture, his friend rediscovers his Japanese roots. With a politically charged commentary on greatly contrasting cultures, the music of Pacific Overtures reflects the tone with a mixture of pentatonic scales and Broadway showtunes.
Comments: Winner of two Tony Awards.
Length: 01:10
Total Acts: 2
Musical Style: Mixture of Japanese-style pentatonic scales and Western showtunes
Contact: Music Theatre International
E-mail Address:
Phone: 212-541-4684
Publisher Web Site:
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