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What Was Different About Stephen Sondheim Musicals.

2511 words - 10 pages

What was so different about Sondheims musicals?Over the course of Sondheim's career he has experimented with all sorts of different kinds of musicals. Each one he was involved with was unique and different to others at the time. Right through from West Side Story to Passione, Sondheim taken something weather it be art, life, horror or comedy and put it to music.His first Broadway musical was West Side Story. He worked as a lyricist and it was his first major musical. It became so successful and was different to anything else that was currently being produced. First performed in 1957 it shook audiences with its powerful and aggressive dancing, storyline and score. It destroyed many preconceptions about form and content of American musicals. It was met with mixed reviews but was one of the most successful shows on Broadway. It was the start of Sondheim's career and lead to his next musicals Gypsy and Anyone Can Whistle also known for their content and new ideas.Gypsy was performed in 1959, based on the memoirs of the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and her crazy mother. The show didn't have the happy, positive aspect like most musicals of the time, it was a real story which was not all that pleasant. It did reasonably well but more importantly backed up Sondheim's talent as a lyricist after the success of West Side Story.Sondheim was again just a lyricist for A Funny thing happened on the way to Forum but had a big part to play in the shows success. The main difference between this show and other Broadway hits was that it was so funny. It had much reworking and a tension filled opening night but surprisingly turned out to be a hit. It was an adult pantamine and was hugely successful among critics and audiences. With a razor sharp script and score the show was funny whoever performed it, whether it be Broadway stars or high school students.Anyone can Whistle gave Sondheim the chance to prove he could write music as well as lyrics. The story takes on not only political corruption but other things such as psychiatry, Madison Avenue, racism, the military industrial complex and stereotyped sex roles. The theme of conformity is now well-worn but back in 1964 when it was first performed it was very daring and shocking. The show was considered a celebrated flop and closed after 9 performances. But the vinyl album became a highly priced cult item before the CD was produced.In 1970 he got together with George Furth to work on his next musical Company. It explores the issue of marriage in modern urban society, which was an avante-garde idea at the time. During the 1960's there had been lots of experimentation going on with poets, novelists and musicians. Evan dance was being taken further. But it was felt that the musical would not accept any changes because it was regarded as the most conservative of forms. Company though, was praised as a landmark and had a successful run. Harold Hobson of the Sunday Times praised it, "There are no native composers in this city of...

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