The pebble not the stream

Via Robot Wisdom auxiliary: an excellent introduction to the works of Stephen Sondheim, illustrated with video clips (the clip from a concert version of Sweeney Todd is not to be missed, especially since the song is mostly cut from the Tim Burton movie). The article divides the works into starters, intermediates, and shows (like Pacific Overtures) for advanced devotees. And it’s not afraid to identify some weaknesses:

One knock against Sondheim’s career is that his influence on musical theater has been either non-existent or pernicious. (Oddly enough, the best example of Sondheim influence on popular culture may be Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s score for Disney’s Beauty And The Beast.) Performers love to sing his songs—”So-and-so sings Sondheim” remains a popular cabaret attraction—but the composers who’ve emerged in his wake have lacked his skill at deconstruction and reconstruction. The decades since Company have seen a lot of overtly complicated shows in which the songs are either straight, shallow pop (without Sondheim’s wit or transcendence), or just tuneless prattle. And frankly, Sondheim at his most “difficult” can himself sound a lot like the latter.