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The first in-depth look at the work and career of one of the most important figures in the history of musical theater

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Table of Contents

Sondheims Career and Output 11
College Activities 15
A Student in New York 20
Journeyman Work 26
West Side Story 31
A Decade of Uncertainty 38
A Career in Full Flight 47
Into the 1990s 54
The Compositional Process 61
Lyric Sketches 64
Prosody 68
Music Sketches 72
The Score 76
Orchestration 79
Literary Sources 86
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum 91
Plautus New Comedy and Trick Songs 93
The Score and Its Profile 98
The Broadway Matrix and Hispanic Features 101
Structural Ambiguities 107
The Meaning of Song Construction 113
The Whole Song 114
Anyone Can Whistle 123
Act 1 124
Act 2 128
Act 3 131
The Generic Scheme 133
Divertissement Songs 135
Symphonic Songs 138
A Score in Search of a Show? 141
Company 147
The Modernist Lyric 149
Urban Music 151
The Score as a Whole 157
The Need for Deconstruction 160
The Question of the Ending 163
The Four Last Songs 166
Follies 175
The List Song 179
Song as Folly 181
Diegetic Song 184
Character Groupings in Follies 187
The Pastiches 196
The Ghost Music 201
The Original Music 205
In Praise of Folly 210
A Little Night Music 213
Folly Once More and Its Motifs 215
The Nineteenth Century 219
The Waltz and Its Symbolism 225
Hemiola 228
Character Dances and Further Rhythmic Resources 238
The Lyrics and Hemiola 239
Lyrics and the Luftpause 243
The Ending 245
Pacific Overtures 249
Pacific Overtures as Historical Pageant 255
The Reflexive Dimension 258
Aspects of the Lyrics 260
Multiple Perspectives in the Music 267
The Phrygian Matrix and Stylistic Unity 271
The Kabuki Element 278
Ritual Form and the Mimetic Interlude 279
Sweeney Todd 281
Is Sweeney Todd Opera? 285
Diegetic Musical Motifs 292
The Dies Irae 297
Structural Processes in the Score 300
The Range of the Score 305
The Universal Ballad 307
Merrily We Roll Along 311
The Historical Metaphor 316
Concordances of the Reverse Narrative 320
Frank and Gussie 323
The Popular Song Analyzed 327
Stylistic Unity and the Return to Broadway 335
The Show Song and Its Meanings 338
Sunday in the Park with George 343
Wagner Musical Impressionism and the Synaesthetic Circle 347
Chromatic Theory 351
Chromaticism Diatonicism and Pointillism in the Score 353
Promenades 358
Theme and Variation 364
Toward a Fundamental Aesthetic 369
Sondheim Moves On 375
Into the Woods 381
Morals and Choices 387
Musical and Lyric Simplicity 390
Beans and Spells 395
Pentatonic Innocence and Children’s Games 401
The Music of a Community 405
The Achievement 408
Selective List of Sources 411
Index of Songs and Musical Numbers 421
General Index 439


With thirteen Broadway musicals to his credit, Stephen Sondheim's career in the musical theater has outdistanced those of most of his contemporaries. Each of his shows has presented new challenges to audiences, and each has cast fresh perspectives on the nature and potential of the American musical, as well as probing deeply, often painfully, into the nature of our culture.
Sondheim's Broadway Musicals is the first book to take an in-depth look at Sondheim's work. Stephen Banfield examines each of Sondheim's musicals for Broadway, from West Side Story and Gypsy to the 1987 musical Into the Woods, and includes A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Follies, Anyone Can Whistle, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Merrily We Roll Along, Sweeney Todd, and Sunday in the Park with George. Banfield also discusses Sondheim's other work, such as the 1991 show Assassins and his music for the 1990 film Dick Tracy--for which "Sooner or Later" won him an Academy Award for Best Song.
"Banfield seems almost to hear Sondheim's music with Sondheim's ears. This extremely valuable work discusses Sondheim's early training and subsequent career, his general compositional concerns, and his style. The meat of the book is a musical-dramatic analysis of his musicals . . . . For each musical, Banfield places the work and its components in a historical and typological text. He also treats in welcome detail the musical profile or universe of each show: Sondheim's use of generative intervals or interval complexes as source material, motifs that reappear in various guises in various songs, the sound world that defines the musical's emotional mind. The book will be as useful to those who are cool to Sondheim's work as to his fans." --Choice

Stephen Banfield is Stanley Hugh Badock Professor of Music, University of Bristol, England. His other books include: Sensibility and English Song: Critical Studies of the Early Twentieth Century, Gerald Finzi: An English Composer, and the forthcoming book Jerome Kern. Sondheim's Broadway Musicals has been awarded the Kurt Weill Prize, for a best book on musical theatre, and the Lowens Award.