More Than Song and Dance with Each Show, Sondheim Redefines the Musical

Stephen Sondheim Redefines the Musical

The birth of pointillist painting. Commodore Perry's opening of Japan to the West. A murderous barber and his woman companion who cooks the victims in pies. A bitter show-biz story of financial rise and moral fall--told chronologically backwards. The ruin of marriages. The disappointments of infidelity. The decline of the chorus-girl kick line as a metaphor for the loss of American innocence.

Unlikely-seeming stuff, any of this, for the makings of Broadway musicals. The U.S., after all, is a nation built on optimism, and the musical, its foremost contribution to the world theater, has typically been seen as a straightforward comic...

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