Book

On Sondheim

Ethan Mordden

Published in print January 2016 | ISBN: 9780199394814
Published online January 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780199394999 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199394814.001.0001
On Sondheim

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Stephen Sondheim’s Company appeared in 1970, and the American musical theatre has never been the same. The adventures of a bachelor and his married friends, Company exploded the musical’s traditional business model of romantic tales with a beginning, middle, and end (in that order) and neatly packaged songs. In Sondheim’s shows, the music flows in and out of the stories, often completely taking over, and romance may be overshadowed by doubt. Moreover, Follies (1971) skips the beginning, Sunday in the Park With George (1984) lacks a middle, and Merrily We Roll Along (1981) has an end, a middle, and a beginning in that order. As this book explains it, Stephen Sondheim is a classical composer who happens to write musicals, which explains why the center of gravity in his scores is so elevated. But more: Sondheim has intellectualized the musical by tackling serious content usually reserved for the spoken stage: nonconformism (in Anyone Can Whistle, 1964), history (in Pacific Overtures, 1976), a serial killing spree and cannibalism (Sweeney Todd, 1979). Yet these are above all theatrical shows, produced with flair and brilliance, whether in the lush operetta of A Little Night Music (1973) or the quixotic fairy-tale magic of Into the Woods (1987). The book addresses the newcomer and the aficionado alike, with fresh insights and analysis of every single Sondheim show, from his first hits (West Side Story, 1957; Gypsy, 1959) to his most recent titles (Passion, 1994; Road Show, 2008). Each musical gets its own chapter, with articles as well on Sondheim’s life and his major influences.

Keywords: Stephen Sondheim; Company; Follies; musicals; Sweeny Todd; classical composer; Into the Woods

Book.  216 pages. 

Subjects: American Music

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Table of Contents

Saturday Night in On Sondheim

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West Side Story in On Sondheim

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Gypsy in On Sondheim

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Anyone Can Whistle in On Sondheim

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Do I Hear a Waltz? in On Sondheim

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Company in On Sondheim

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Follies in On Sondheim

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