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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Saturday, 3 January 2015

A show for adults


Forty-odd years after it appeared on Broadway and in the West End we caught up with Stephen Sondheim's musical Company. Two reasons: (1) in those Cro-Magnon times I wasn't terribly interested in musicals, (2) when I realised quite recently I could no longer ignore Sondheim I discovered most DVDs of his shows were Region 1 (USA) and wouldn't play on my Panasonic.

The latter techno problem I solved (see Keeping My Hand In). In so doing  I discovered a further reason for liking the guy. The DVDs are proof that Sondheim's stuff, unlike Evita, Les Mis' and Cats, are minority appeal. And you know what a snob I am.

The first few minutes were slightly strained. VR and I had to get used to American performers speaking and singing very clearly as if out of elocution class. A bit stiff. For two reasons: stage musicals demand this, Sondheim, more than most. He writes the lyrics and they're worth listening to.

But that oddity was quickly forgotten. Company centres on a gathering of married friends liking and worrying about 35-year-old Robert who claims to be "ready for marriage" yet remains stubbornly single. It has serious things to say about marriage yet says them wittily and often hilariously. It's a show for grown-ups.

To the point where VR turned to me afterwards and said - quite seriously - "You know we've been very lucky." She meant over the last 54 years and I agreed. Company encouraged us to reinforce that conclusion.

There are however, the songs. Clever words and neat integration, but none you’d go away humming. This didn’t worry me. They fitted the show at the time, and they entertained.

OK, you knew all this. Just so’s you also know: we are flexible.

6 comments:

Rouchswalwe said...

Hmmm, should give this dude a try since I am still living in my Cro-Magnon times (musicals tend to make me cranky). Although I finally have a pair of friends who are enjoying marriage. It's quite refreshing really! Opens up entirely new topics of conversation.

Roderick Robinson said...

RW (zS): Sondheim has won many awards and is honoured the world over, but mainly among eggheads. For me, he sprang to life by writing the lyrics of West Side Story (Remember those: Gee Officer Krupke, Tonight (won't be just any night), Jet Song, A Boy Like That).

Back in my Barrett Bonden/Works Well days I tried to interest my readers in him by reviewing a rather strange (and damned expensive) book he compiled in which he was horribly cruel about his own lyrics, especially West Side Story, and about those of other great lyricists (Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart, Irving Berlin, Noel Coward). He is, as I said, perfectionist - a great rarity these days. But his perfectionism can tell against him.

Of the dozen or so musicals he has written (tunes as well, these days) only one smash hit has emerged: Send In The Clowns. But this isn't because he's bad at tunes or lyrics, it's because he sees the songs he writes as - first and foremost - fitting into the characters and plot-lines he decorates, and above all being grammatically and syntactically correct.

If you're interested CLICK HERE and you can read my November 22 2010 post. It seems I'm no great prophet (after all Sondheim's philosophy is not all that obvious) and only two people responded then.

Fedorovna said...

You have reminded me of a production of West Side Story we were privileged to see inside Winchester Gaol. Professional singers took the leads, a local music conservatoire covered the female roles but oh joy, the inmates were the gangs and the screws the police. Imagine Gee Officer Krupke really being sung in character. And they were bloody good too.

Roderick Robinson said...

Fed: Can't beat that. But I did see the movie of West Side Story in Paris soon after it was launched. Many foreign movies shown in France - certainly all those shown on telly - are dubbed, which can make them excruciating. Given that they'd have needed singers with un-French singing voices WSS was mercifully sub-titled. Which meant that for a time I could irritate the hell out of people by singing Ce soir, ce soir, tout a commencé ce soir before eventually losing interest. Krupke, however, would have been a linguistic bridge too far.

Lucas said...

Joyce also likes Sondheim and thinks he is a talented writer of music and ideas, which works because he picks unusual subjects like Sweeney Todd. Joyce would like to see A Little Night Music.
She does not know Company but would like to see that too now.

Rouchswalwe said...

You've hit on the one musical I do like ... West Side Story. Okay ... I'm off to look him up. Thank you!