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George Furth
Born George Schweinfurth
December 14, 1932
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died August 11, 2008(2008-08-11) (aged 75)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Occupation Librettist, playwright, actor

George Furth (December 14, 1932 – August 11, 2008) was an American librettist, playwright, and actor.

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  • Top Five Sondheim Lyrics
  • "The Ladies Who Lunch" - Company (2007) - Barbara Walsh
  • Company: The “Concept” Musical


Stephen Sondheim. Lyricist extraordinaire, expert beard-grower and master of musical theatre! He comes up on my iPod Shuffle more times than I can count. But I can hear what you're asking. You're thinking: "Oh, Mr. Musical Mash guy, what are your favorite Stephen Sondheim lyrics?" Well, I'm glad you asked. One of the easiest ways to make your character seem intelligent is to give them more rhymes or more alliteration. Stephen Sondheim is a master of both of these tasks. Alliteration is, of course, when you repeat a phrase or a sound over and over again in succession. It's pleasing to the ear, it creates for an intelligent sounding lyric, an intelligent sounding character and it certainly makes Jack's mother seem smart in this number 5 favorite Sondheim lyric: (JACK'S MOTHER) There are bugs on her dugs There are flies in her eyes There's a lump on her rump, big enough to be a hump (JACK)But...(JACK'S MOTHER) Son! We've no time to sit and dither While her withers wither with her You heard that right. While her withers wither with her. If that isn't alliteration, I don't know what is. Jack's mother is, of course, speaking of Milky White's withers and how they are withering with her. Just delightful. Absolutely fantastic Number four on this list comes from Gypsy. To get the joke, you gotta hear the first chorus. So, here's the first chorus: (ROSE) Have an egg roll, Mr. Goldstone Have a napkin, have a chopstick, have a chair Have a spare rib, Mr. Goldstone Any spare rib that I can spare I'd be glad to share Fun enough, exciting enough, right? But, when we hit the second chorus: (ROSE) Have a Goldstone, Mr.Eggroll Tell me any little thing that I can do Have some fried rice, Mr.Soy Sauce Have a cookie, have a few! Hilarious! I just think this one is funny. If you haven't read "Finishing the Hat" or "Look, I Made a Hat", you should stop this video and go get them right now. It is Sondheim on Sondheim. His collected lyrics with annotations and thoughts and musings, it's just fantastic. I love it to death. In "Finishing the Hat" Sondheim differentiates between what he refers to as a song, and what he refers to as a number. This next one, number 3, Sondheim would refer to as a number It is a musicalized scene: a whole bunch of things happening all at once. It's from Merrily We Roll Along, it's called Opening Doors, and my favorite lyric is right here: (FRANK):By the way, I'm told we open Saturday (THE OTHERS) What! (MARY) You're not serious! (CHARLEY) Nobody's ready! (FRANK) Apparently somebody cancelled a booking (CHARLEY) The songs aren't finished- (MARY) And what about costumes? (BETH) And how do I learn all these numbers? (FRANK) I'll bring you the copies of everything later this evening (CHARLEY) Not to mention I still haven't finished (CHARLEY) The Synanon song or the Kennedy Number? (BETH) Okay, but I'll have to have all the music (MARY) And have we decided or not on the restaurant sketch? (FRANK) You don't have to, we'll segue the end into the dance we cut out (CHARLEY) And what do we do about getting publicity (BETH) And Saturday I've got to sing at a wedding (MARY) I'll need two or three days to replace it (FRANK) No, we'll use it but not with the long introduction? (CHARLEY)Run around town putting stickers on windows? (BETH) Oh god, is there dancing, 'cause I'm not a dancer? (ALL) We'll worry about it on Sunday, we're opening doors! It's a beautiful cacophony of overlapping lyrics and ideas The whole song has been like this There is a wonderful back-and-forth over the phone between all three of the main characters in Merrily We Roll Along But this is where it comes to a head and, I think, is one of the most brilliant pieces of music Sondheim has ever written. This whole song is. Go listen to Opening Doors if you haven't heard it. Number 2 is absolutely simple and absolutely fantastic. The first, and later almost last, lines of Sweeney Todd. Ready? (MAN) Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd That's it. "Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd". It's a deceptively complex lyric At the beginning of the play, this Brechtian chorus is inviting you to participate in a night of theatre: "Come, attend the tale of Sweeney Todd" And then you watch the whole thing, and by the end of Act 1, when A Little Priest happens, you're watching Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd, and by intermission you think: "Hey, you know, I kind of agree with them." But by the end of the show you're thinking to yourself: "Oh my god, I can't believe I agreed with them at intermission" And then the chorus appears again and reminds you to "attend" the tale of Sweeney Todd. Not: "Come watch the tale of Sweeney Todd", but instead: Think of, and remember, and attend to the tale of Sweeney Todd, lest revenge get the better of you the future. Basically: don't bake people into meat pies "Ladies who Lunch" is, I think, one of Sondheim's masterpieces and my number one lyric comes from it and is due in no small part to the beautiful performance by Elaine Stritch. (JOANNE) Here's to the girls who play wife Aren't they too much? Keeping house but clutching a copy of LIFE, just to keep in touch. "Clutching a copy of LIFE, just to keep in touch". It is so elegant, I hardly have the words to describe it. Nothing else could possibly exemplify Joanne's combined contempt, yet admiration for these wifely, house-keeping ladies that she considers herself no longer one, but still envies them, and wants to be them. It's just magnificent. The show is magnificent, the song is magnificent And that is why it is my number one lyric. Hope you enjoyed! I'll see you around. Go get your daily helping of Sondheim! They're all over the place! Go listen to Sunday in the Park with George Or Company, or Sweeney Todd Go and plug in West Side Story while you're at it, have a good cry. It's a sad show. That's all I got. Bye!


Life and career

Furth was born George Schweinfurth in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Evelyn (née Tuerk) and George Schweinfurth.[1] He received a Bachelor of Science in Speech at Northwestern University in 1954 and received his master's degree from Columbia University.

A life member of the Actors Studio,[2] Furth made his Broadway debut as an actor in the 1961 play A Cook for Mr. General, followed by the musical Hot Spot two years later. He was also known for his collaborations with Stephen Sondheim: the highly successful Company, the ill-fated Merrily We Roll Along and the equally ill-fated drama, Getting Away with Murder.[3] Furth penned the plays Twigs, The Supporting Cast and Precious Sons, and wrote the book for the Kander and Ebb musical, The Act.

One of Furth's last writing projects was a foray into an area where he had not previously endeavored. Furth penned the lyrics for a musical revue, with music by Doug Katsaros. Furth and Katsaros shaped the work with San Francisco director Mike Ward into "The End-a new musical revue". The piece was performed at San Francisco's New Conservatory Theatre Center during the summer of 2004 and was billed as a "Pre-U.S. Tour Workshop Production". The piece was reworked twice, with the title changing to Last Call and Happy Hour, respectively.[citation needed]

Frequently cast as a bespectacled, ineffectual milquetoast, Furth appeared in such films as The Boston Strangler, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Myra Breckinridge, Blazing Saddles, Shampoo, The Cannonball Run, The Man with Two Brains, and Bulworth. His many television credits include Tammy, McHale's Navy, Ironside, I Dream of Jeannie, That Girl, Green Acres, The Monkees, Batman, The Odd Couple, Bonanza, Happy Days, All in the Family, Murphy Brown, L.A. Law, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Murder, She Wrote, Little House on the Prairie, Love, American Style, Adam-12, F Troop and the 1980 made-for-TV film The Scarlett O'Hara War, in which he portrayed famed film director George Cukor. He was a regular in the cast of the short-lived 1976 situation comedy The Dumplings.

He adapted his play Twigs as a 1975 television production, starring Carol Burnett.[4] He also worked as a voice actor in several episodes of the animated television series The Adventures of Don Coyote and Sancho Panda for Hanna-Barbera Productions.[citation needed]


Furth won both the Tony and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical for Company, and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play for Precious Sons.


Furth died on August 11, 2008 at the age of 75. The exact cause of death is unknown, although he had been hospitalized for a lung disease at the time.[5]



  1. ^ George Furth profile at Film
  2. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of the Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 278. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  3. ^ Dramatists Play Service
  4. ^ "Carol Burnett Stars in Special Comedy 'Twigs'" Lakeland Ledger (, March 2, 1975
  5. ^ Weber, Bruce. "George Furth, an Actor and Playwright, Dies at 75", New York Times; accessed August 12, 2008.

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This page was last edited on 26 May 2018, at 20:24
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