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re: Frank's private tragedy
Posted by: AlanScott 03:03 pm EDT 03/13/19
In reply to: Frank's private tragedy - peter3053 11:10 pm EDT 03/12/19

"I think that there is a secret tragedy alluded to in the limited variations of Frank's melodies: I think that because he realized he was limited musically, and he so wanted to change the world through music, he retreated to the comforts of money. "

I got a big laugh when I was the guest at the talkback for the Roundabout-Fiasco production, and I discussed this, saying that Frank spent years trying to perfect the melody or that the less charitable interpretation would be that he has only one song in him.

But I do think it's meant to be ambiguous, and, of course, even musicians may not pick up on it when hearing the score for the first time.

When we hear Frank playing the opening notes of the melody again and again in "Opening Doors," trying one possibility after another till he finds the right one, that is Sondheim, that is the way he works. He talks about this in Horowitz and he's talked about it elsewhere, too, I think. Kern, he says, also did this. Frank at the piano playing around with the melody is one of the several reasons Sondheim says “Opening Doors” is the only truly and very specifically autobiographical song he’s written. The “Hills of Tomorrow” melody could be interpreted as Frank's idée fixe, his obsession, and once he transforms it so that it’s reached its ultimate form, he's satisfied on some level (although it’s not like he doesn’t compose more songs after “Good Thing Going”).

I'd suggest the possibility that it's not so much that Frank realizes that he's limited as much as it might be that he's afraid he's limited. But this is something that's completely open to interpretation, something for an actor and a director to discuss and decide.

Incidentally, the title Darkness Before Dawn was not used in the original production, where Frank's movie was called Light Out of Darkness, which admittedly is a similar idea, but does not allude to the Sputnik scene taking place shortly before dawn. By the time Darkness Before Dawn comes along in a text of the show, "The Hills of Tomorrow" is gone.

I love Merrily, or at least I love the original version, but I'd say that lots of flops have featured a similarly high level of thought and craft. And, yes, it's sad to see people without much craft get rewarded, but this is also nothing new. Lots of mediocre shows and performers have had success and won awards.
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