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re: Sondheim's Broadway career
Posted by: peter3053 04:15 am EDT 04/10/21
In reply to: re: Sondheim's Broadway career - Singapore/Fling 12:28 am EDT 04/10/21

In Merrily, a young man is inspired to transform the world for the better, using his gift, music, to do so; he intends to write shows which will illuminate ( "tell 'em things they don't know") the human condition, to sustain idealism and forge social progress ("Me and you/ Me and you / Me and you / Me and you!"). However, through a weakness for personal comfort over commitment (a weakness many of us share), he chooses the path of expedient rewards - fame, glamor, the use of women for personal ambition and sexual pleasure (not an abiding love), and riches. His work ceases to be an expression of his art, and becomes merely a populist means to a self-indulgent end.

Thus he moves from the chance to be genuinely productive in this world, for the greater good of all, to a form of despair which is mere selfish comfort - despair at its root meaning means to be de-spirited, usually by too much attachment to the rewards of materialism. He moves from "me and you" to being a card-carrying member of the "Me" generation. (The "Us" of "Who's Like us?" is progressively ghosted as he vanishes inside "Franklin Shephard Inc.") At the same time, ironically, his thirst for public success co-incides with the loss of his own privacy and public exposure by a gossip-thirsty media mob; his human distinctiveness becomes swallowed by the fashionable, integrity-less blob, and he is rendered artistically and therefore, for him, morally impotent and expressively infertile.

He loses his greater humanity.

This is a profound tale, told in an alarming way - that is, told in a way that alarms us the most the more beautiful his character becomes, at the beginning which is the end.

There are many great works of art that incorporate flaws - flaws which become mysteries over time (Does Gertrude know her new husband murdered Hamlet's father? How many children hath Lady Macbeth? Why didn't Emilia protest about the handkerchief in time before Othello killed Desdemona?).

There are many great works which include dislikeable characters; as Sondheim and Weidman themselves said in Road Show, sometimes the worst example is the best.

For ambition, for insight, for artistry which cries out for the value of love over selfihsness, Merrily ranks among the greats.
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