Kingston University opens Stephen Sondheim archive

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An archive of Stephen Sondheim memorabilia that includes a billboard for the 1958 London production of West Side Story and photos of Maria Friedman in the 1992 staging of Merrily We Roll Along has been launched at Kingston University in London.

The Stephen Sondheim Society Archive is made up of items spanning the US composer’s career, and includes programmes, flyers, posters and reviews.

Originally compiled by theatre collector and Sondheim fan Peter Wood, the collection was sold to the Stephen Sondheim Society in 2008 and is now being held at Kingston University.

The university’s archivist Katie Giles said: “The Stephen Sondheim Society was keen to bring the material to a wider audience and give students and researchers the chance to explore it. The project was obviously a labour of love for Mr Wood. Everything came to us in very good condition, carefully stored and catalogued, with its own numbering system.”

David Ovenden, chair of the Stephen Sondheim Society, added the organisation had been keen to ensure Sondheim’s work was “seen in relation to his predecessors and collections”.

“Kingston’s existing theatre archives, and the links it has with other collections, will help to place his work in context,” he said.

The archive comprises more than 30 boxes and albums of material from 28 shows, as well as sound and video recordings. It will continue to expand as the society adds to the collection, which also includes a poster from the 1990 film Dick Tracy, for which Sondheim wrote five tracks, and a promotional apron for the musical Sweeney Todd.