March 29, 2005

Yikes! It's Stephen Sondheim Posting!

Terry Teachout's Girl in Chicago posts about her new-found pleasure in the work of Stephen Sondheim, in honor of Sondheim's 75th birthday last week.

I don't even pretend to know very much about Sondheim myself, except for two things that I know very well:

First, I have always loved A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Part of this is owing to some of the snappy numbers, but part of it also is owing to the show's tribute to the ancient Roman comedies of Terrence and, particularly, Plautus, using stock Roman comic characters and even lifting a couple of their names - Pseudolus and Miles Gloriosus - directly from the titles of plays by Plautus. (As befitting their parts in the show, Pseudolus means, roughly, "the lying slave" while Miles Gloriosus means "the braggart soldier".) Such a hat tip across the ages, especially when as cleverly done as it is here, makes me smile.

Second, while I have never seen A Little Night Music, I have seen and heard several cabaret performances of Send In The Clowns. There is something about this song that brings out the absolute worst excesses of sappiness in such singers and makes me want to grab a pair of scissors and rupture my own eardrums with them.

But that's just me.

Posted by Robert at March 29, 2005 09:50 AM

I just loved Zero Mostel in the Funny Thing. It was like he was made for that part.

Posted by: RP at March 29, 2005 10:12 AM

He wrote one of my favorite songs ever written: "Being Alive". God. I get chills just thinking about it. It also can bring out the worst in a singer - but when a good singer who can also ACT does it? Forget about it. Great great song.

Posted by: red at March 29, 2005 10:35 AM

Robert, I'm in full agreement on "Send in the Clowns," but overall Sondheim is to American popular music what Wodehouse is to early-twentieth-century British humor (or "humour," I suppose). I dare you to watch the DVD of "Sweeney Todd," with Angela Lansbury and George Hearn, without recognizing that this is genius at work. A man of your cultured tastes might enjoy his musical adaptation of Aristophanes' "The Frogs," too.

Posted by: utron at March 29, 2005 11:39 PM
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