The ten best musical-theater composers in NYC



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  1. Stephen Sondheim. What is left to say about the Great One? A mere list of some of his shows—West Side Story, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, Follies, Company, Sunday in the Park with George—should suffice. Even most of his flops are classics.


  2. Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner. When she writes with other lyricists, as in Thoroughly Modern Millie or Shrek, Tesori is a very capable songsmith. But when paired with the brilliant Kushner, in Caroline, or Change and Mother Courage, she has reached greatness.


  3. William Finn. William Finn made his name with songs that captured the spiky rhythms of smart conversation, but he is also a master of heartbreaking ballads. His show tunes have offbeat heart.

  4. Adam Guettel. He's the grandson of Richard Rodgers, and has inherited the family ear. In Floyd Collins and A Light in the Piazza, he has shown a searchingly original compositional voice; what a shame that his planned adaptation of The Princess Bride is not to be.

  5. Michael Korie and Scott Frankel. The sparkling score of Grey Gardens was somewhat overlooked amid the encomia for Christine Ebersole's performance of it, but Korie and Frankel's melodies linger on. Their newest piece, Happiness, opened in March at Lincoln Center.

  6. Michael Friedman. Best known for the clever, semicomical art songs he has written for the docutheater troupe the Civilians, Friedman is a musical polymath who can also write in a sincere pop vein—as he proved in the undervalued Saved.

  7. Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith. The best musical of 2008, the darkly provocative Adding Machine, owed much of its power to Schmidt and Loewith's eclectic, sometimes discordant, always surprising score.

  8. David Yazbek. Yazbeck's knack for pop melodies has borne fruit in two Broadway musicals based on movies: The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He's currently at work on shows about Harry Houdini and Bruce Lee.

  9. Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater. Sheik and Sater's breakthrough, Spring Awakening, gave Broadway what might be its most authentic rock sound ever. Now the duo is back to the grindstone, working on two new pieces in tandem: Nightingale and Nero.

  10. Michael John LaChiusa. One of the most gifted and musically ambitious composers to come along in the past two decades, LaChiusa chooses fascinating subjects for adaptation. If he could only hook up with a book writer, he—and we—would be set.

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