From West Side Story in 1957 to Road Show in 2008, the musicals of Stephen Sondheim and his collaborators have challenged the conventions of American musical theater and expanded the possibilities of what musical plays can do, how they work, and what they mean. Sondheim's brilliant array of work, including such musicals as Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods, has established him as the preeminent composer/lyricist of his, if not all, time.
Stephen Sondheim and the Reinvention of the American Musical places Sondheim's work in two contexts: the exhaustion of the musical play and the postmodernism that, by the 1960s, deeply influenced all the American arts. Sondheim's musicals are central to the transition from the Rodgers and Hammerstein - style musical that had dominated Broadway stages for 20 years to a new postmodern musical. This new style reclaimed many of the self-aware, performative techniques of the 1930s musical comedy to develop its themes of the breakdown of narrative knowledge and the fragmentation of identity.
Stephen Sondheim and the Reinvention of the American Musical offers close readings of all of Sondheim's musicals and finds in them critiques of the operation of power, questioning of conventional systems of knowledge, and explorations of contemporary identity.
The book is published by University Press of Mississippi.
McLaughlin draws satisfying and thought-provoking conclusions about both the history and the current state of musical theatre. It's a world divided by the struggle of achieving mass cultural appeal (the business) against innovating artistic expression (the show). Here, Mclaughlin thoughtfully explores the space between the two by focusing on the work of Sondheim, as it developed over the changing cultural landscape of his time.
This book is at its strongest when its scope is wide, when some of its denser ideas are brought to bear on greater trends in musical theatre. These dense ideas are necessary, but sometimes get weighed down in the philosophical language. Be prepared to rewind occasionally if you want to fully absorb this book. Highly recommended to insiders of the art form, especially directors and music directors.
This was a very informative and fun book to listen to.I enjoyed it.David Stifel was the perfect narrator.“I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook by the author, narrator, or publisher.”