I've always had it, but sometimes it hides out in the background for a while. Lately, since the anticipation of Sweeney Todd coming out, it has been in full force.
For those of you unfamiliar, Sondheimer's Disease is the addiction to all things written by Stephen Sondheim, the greatest American musical theatre composer EVER. Sondheim rarely writes a song that isn't about the human condition. He's not your Rodgers & Hammerstein kind of composer - he writes about ambivalence almost as much (if not more) than he writes about true love. His characters can be almost schizophrenic in their contradictions. This is why I can relate!
I enjoy solitude, yet can sometimes ache with loneliness. I love and hate people with fierce intensity. In discussing politics, I can go from apathy to outrage in about 5 seconds. And apparently, I can go from talking about Sondheim to making it all about me in just that amount of time, too!
So...back to Sondheim. He's different from others (like that Webber dude) because he's much more interested in characters than candelabras. If you've seen Sweeney Todd, and this is your only exposure to Sondheim, even that can attest to what I mean.
I also highly recommend Into the Woods, which is my personal favorite. I swear, every time I listen/see this show (available on DVD), I learn something new. This show combines several well-known fairy tales in Act 1, and Act 2 explores what happens after "happily ever after." Overall, it reminds me that all of our actions have consequences. As a mother, I'm trying to teach this as well. Luckily, my girls happen to love this show so I'm hoping some of the message is getting through to them.
Company, one of Sondheim's earlier works, will be showing on PBS in its latest revival rendition on Feb. 23. This one is about a still-single 30-something man and all his married couple friends. There has been suspicion since its original Broadway debut that Bobby, the lead character, is gay, but this has neither been confirmed or denied by the authors. Either way, it says some interesting things about relationships, and individuality, and balancing the two.
And for anyone that doesn't think musical theatre is "for them," I urge you to try different ones that aren't the chestnuts. I have a friend who supposedly hates musicals but loved Avenue Q. Another non-musical fan raved over Wicked.
The genre was actually created for the working class. One of the reasons I get so down on Andrew Lloyd Webber was because it was his musicals that hiked up Broadway musical prices to such exorbitant amounts, it became inaccessible to so many. But it was not meant for the elite. It is not opera. (I don't even really like opera!)
At least start with renting either Sweeney Todd or Chicago. To me, saying one doesn't like musicals is like saying one doesn't like movies. You're not going to like them all, so be willing to try again with another storyline that may be of more interest to you.