Photo of Stephen Sondheim and text overlaid that reads: "Remembering Stephen Sondheim 1930-2021"

Finishing the Hat: Stephen Sondheim Quotes

Remembering Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021) through his own words.

White, a blank page or canvas
The challenge, bring order to the whole
Through Design
Composition
Tension
Balance
Light
And Harmony

On November 29, 2021 the world lost one of the greatest musical theatre writers of all time. Stephen Sondheim, considered by many to be the Shakespeare of the American musical, brought to life some of the most beloved works of our time including Gypsy, West Side Story, Into the Woods, Follies, and more. Tonight, the Committee of Theatre Owners will dim the lights of all Broadway theatres in New York City for exactly one minute at 6:30 pm EST in his memory. 

Since we here at the American Writers Museum work to celebrate the written word, we feel the best way to honor the life and work of Stephen Sondheim is through the lyrics and music he created. Below, you’ll find some of our favorite quotes from Sondheim’s works with links to the complete lyrics and to recorded performances from some of the world’s best performers.

Rest easy, Stephen Sondheim, and thank you for your words and music. Thank you for writing.

Collected by Matthew Masino


“Tonight” from West Side Story (1957)

Carol Lawrence, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, and cast members around the piano rehearsing for West Side Story, 1957. (Photo by Friedman-Abeles)
Carol Lawrence, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, and cast members around the piano rehearsing for West Side Story, 1957. (Photo by Friedman-Abeles)

Tonight. tonight,
The world is full of light,
With suns and moons all over the place.
Tonight, tonight,
The world is wild and bright.
Going mad, shooting sparks into space.
Today the world was just an address.
A place for me to live in,
No better than all right,
But here you are
And what was just a world is a star
Tonight!

Click here to listen to “Tonight” from the upcoming West Side Story film performed by Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort or read the full lyrics here.

“The Worst Pies in London” from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979)

No denying times is hard, sir-
Even harder than
The worst pies in London.
Only lard and nothing more-
Is that just revolting?
All greasy and gritty,
It looks like it’s molting,
And tastes like-
Well, pity
A woman alone
With limited wind
And the worst pies in London.
Ah sir,
Times is hard. Times is hard.

Listen to “Worst Pies in London” performed here by Patti Lupone in the video below or read the full lyrics here.

“Little Dream” from The Birdcage (1996)

You are the dream and I, the dreamer
Each night anew
Tell me, my dream, are you a dreamer
Too?
And of who?

Watch this scene from The Birdcage featuring “Little Dream” performed by Nathan Lane and featuring Robin Williams.

“Getting Married Today” from Company (1970)

Rosalie Craig, Alex Gaumond, and Jonathan Bailey in “Company” in London, 2018. (Photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)
Rosalie Craig, Alex Gaumond, and Jonathan Bailey in “Company” in London, 2018. (Photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)

Pardon me, is everybody here?
Because if everybody’s here
I’d like to thank you all
For coming to the wedding.
I’d appreciate you going even more
I mean, you must have lots of better things to do
And not a word of it to Paul
Remember Paul? You know, the man I’m going to marry
But I’m not, because I wouldn’t ruin anything
As wonderful as he is.
But I thank you all for the gifts and the flowers,
Thank you all, now it’s back to the showers
Don’t tell Paul, but I’m not getting married today.

Click here to listen to “Getting Married Today” from the 2018 West End revival performed by Jonathan Bailey, Alex Guamond, and Daisy Maywod or read the full lyrics by clicking here.

“Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music (1973)

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground
You in mid-air
Send in the clowns

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around
One who can’t move
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns

Listen to “Send in the Clowns” performed in the video below by Dame Judi Dench or read the full lyrics here.

“Any Moment/Moments in the Woods” from Into the Woods (1987)

Just a moment
One peculiar passing moment
Must it all be either less or more
Either plain or grand?
Is it always “or”?
Is it never “and”?
That’s what woods are for:
For those moments in the woods…

Oh, if life were made of moments
Even now and then a bad one
But if life were only moments
Then you’d never know you had one.

Listen to “Any Moment/Moments in the Woods” performed here by Joanna Gleason and Robert Westenberg or read the full lyrics here.

“Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George (1984)

And when the woman that you wanted goes
You can say to yourself, “Well, I give what I give.”
But the woman who won’t wait for you knows
That, however you live
There’s a part of you always standing by
Mapping out the sky
Finishing a hat…
Starting on a hat..
Finishing a hat…
Look, I made a hat…
Where there never was a hat.

Listen to “Finishing the Hat” performed here by Mandy Patinkin at Sondheim! The Birthday Concert and read the full lyrics here.


Matthew Masino is a content creator, writer, and theatre director based in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated with a B.F.A. in Theatre Directing from Columbia College Chicago in 2019. Matthew began writing for the AWM blog in April 2020, just after the museum’s closure and has since written more than two dozen articles for the blog. He is also responsible for creating the AWM Destinations blog series. As a theatre artist, Matthew has worked with the International Voices Project, the Chicago Fringe Festival, and BYOT Productions. You can learn more by visiting his website www.matthewmasino.com.

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