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Encore the Third part Two: the quickening

Let’s consider this a new game, then, shall we? Matt H (also known as not-Matthew) has correctly guessed that my atoz consists of words from Sondheim songs. The list is inspired by the release of Finishing the Hat, which I haven’t actually got my mitts on as yet, and which contains only lyrics up through 1981, whereas my atoz goes later than that.

Props also to Jed, who almost immediately guessed that these were all songs from musicals. I could not give him full credit for that, but was a pretty good guess before any songs had been identified as correct—and I think only four or five words had any songs at all. Still, it’s Matt that gets the laurel and hearty handshake, and the Bragging Units, too.

Now, are there enough Sondheim nuts here to come up with all 25 songs? With twelve? I swear I didn’t try to be utterly baffling, but as it has become clear that I was baffling, let’s make the new rule that GRs are explicitly allowed to listen to Sondheim songs in an attempt to find the words., although doing a search in the printed lyrics still seems to me to be cheating. Looking up the list of musicals, though, to spark a blocked brain, seems perfectly reasonable. So draw your own lines.

The List

  • Advanced in an advanced state of shock
  • Belching
  • Cruelty Matt: “No Place Like London” from Sweeney Todd
  • Daffodils
  • Excursions
  • Festival
  • Gaudy Stephen: “Comedy Tonight” A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum First song guessed!
  • Hyphenated
  • Intervenes
  • Jasmine
  • Kerosene rhymes with a machine
  • Lilies
  • Menial rhymes with congenial
  • Nouveau
  • Optical classes in optical art
  • Population Jacob: “America” from West Side Story
  • Quips leaving the quips with a sting
  • Revolving
  • Striped
  • Tranquil
  • Ukeleles rhymes with the dailies
  • Vienna
  • Wimple dressed me in a wimple and in veils
  • Yap rhymes with nap
  • Zinger

22 words left. More hints can be provided, if y’all want them. Oh, if it isn’t obvious, the rhymes are the rhyming words in the songs I am thinking of, and the phrases are the phrases in the lyrics that contain those words.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


population: America, "always the hurricanes blowing, always the population growing"

So are you saying that Sondheim has more stuff other than the lyrics to West Side Story? I guess I sort of knew that. Send in the Clowns -- I've heard of that one.

Ding! That's three.


Dammit, I almost said "It's like they're all from Sondheim songs or something," but I figured that was close enough to musicals that it must be wrong.

Which is especially funny because I only made the musicals guess so I wouldn't be kicking myself for not making it if it turned out to be right.

I am amused. (And kicking myself. But only a little bit.)

Guess it's time for me to go listen to Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music straight through, just in case.

Jacob: Sacrilege!

But more seriously, if all you know from A Little Night Music is "Send in the Clowns," and if you have any interest in musicals, I strongly recommend listening to the recording of the rest of the songs. There are some brilliant and/or very funny and/or really compelling songs in that show, and they're all in waltz time. "Send in the Clowns" was my least favorite song in the show until I saw it live, when I finally got the pathos; even still, most of the other songs in the show are, imo, much better. Witty and sharp and clever and just all-around good stuff. Probably my favorite musical, though there are other contenders for that spot.

...Or, wait, were you just joking? In which case never mind. Now I feel silly. (Oh so silly—never mind.) But I'll leave that paragraph there in case anyone else doesn't know the show.

No, I wasn't joking; I have only the vaguest sense of what Sondheim as done, and I wouldn't even say that I know "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music -- I just know it from various pop recordings such as Barbra Streisand.

I love musicals, actually, and know all of the old ones -- Rodgers & Hammerstein, Rodgers & Hart, Lerner & Lowe, Cole Porter, etc. etc. If I were to decide that it's time to become familiar with Sondheim, is A Little Night Music the right one to start with? Are there any that have decent movies or theatrical DVDs? It's hard to get into a musical just listening to the soundtrack without knowing the play.

Well, if you like musicals of the 50s, you should really know Gypsy (1959), and should really, really, really, really check out A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), which is a great show. Alas, the movie of Funny Thing is terrible, and I don't think there is a full video of any of the recent productions. I saw one at the National in London, I think in 2004, and it was wonderful, and wonderful in a way that anyone who likes musicals might like.

The movie of A Little Night Music is supposed to be terrible; I have never bothered to see it because of that. There are great videos of Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George; those are where I really became fans. The Gypsy with Bette Midler is actually quite good, if I remember correctly; there doesn't seem to be film of Angela Lansbury or Bernadette Peters in the role. Ah, well.

For A Little Night Music you could consider watching the original (nonmusical) movie Smiles of a Summer Night, to get a sense of the characters, and then listening to the soundtrack. There's an unusual amount of character development in the songs, though, so you can get a decent sense of through-line just from the soundtrack.

Oh, one more thing: do not begin by watching the Sweeney Todd theatrical-release movie. Don't get me wrong—I enjoyed it a lot, but it seems to me to be more enjoyable as a kind of riff on the show rather than as a production of it.


The first act of Sunday in the Park with George is terrific, and I hear tell there's a second act, but my memory revolts when I actually try to recall it.

Also by Sondheim: I quite liked Pacific Overtures, although you really need to want to know the history of European involvement in Japanese affairs, I think, to give a crap about the story. "Detente" is brilliant, though, as is the slow one about evolving Japanese tastes. Company has some great stuff in it, but it's really quite 70s, and not in a particularly good way. I like the conceit and first act of Into the Woods better than I like the actual music, and the production I saw was entirely meh. Assassins is one of his, too, right? I think I saw a production of it in the 90s, but my memory of that decade is fuzzy at best (possibly shedding some light on why I'm doing so poorly at remembering the songs...), and I certainly don't know the music.

From all this, it might seem that I'm not a big Sondheim fan, after all. Weird that I have all this knowledge kicking around, though. Did I miss any?


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