Sondheim's sense of rhyme and reason
Last Edit: WaymanWong 08:17 pm EDT 08/12/22
Posted by: WaymanWong 08:09 pm EDT 08/12/22
In reply to: Jesse Green’s comment on “The Miller’s Son.” - Delvino 07:38 pm EDT 08/12/22

Stephen Sondheim has often said he found his lyrics to ''West Side Story'' ''embarrassing'': ''I had spent the previous year of my life rhyming ‘day’ and ‘way’ and ‘me’ and ‘be’ and with ‘I Feel Pretty’ I wanted to show that I could do inner rhymes, too. So I had this uneducated Puerto Rican girl singing ‘It’s alarming how charming I feel.’ You KNOW she would have not been unwelcome in Noel Coward’s living room.''

So how does that square with his lyrics for Petra, a country maid, in ''A Little Night Music''?

Her brilliant, big solo, ''The Miller's Son,'' is packed with wordplay, full of witty rhymes and a litany of alliterations:

''It's a wink and a wiggle
And a giggle on the grass
And I'll trip the light fandango
A pinch and a diddle
In the middle of what passes by.

''It's a very short road
From the pinch and the punch
To the paunch and the pouch
And the pension
It's a very short road
To the ten-thousandth lunch
And the belch and the grouch
And the sigh ...''

I looked up ''Finishing the Hat,'' Sondheim's collected lyrics (1954-81), to see if he offered any insights, but it's unannotated. Thoughts?

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