The first in-depth look at the work and career of one of the most important figures in the history of musical theater
Library JournalBanfield (school of performance studies, Univ. of Birmingham, England) has produced a thorough, scholarly work that emphasizes Sondheim's compositional process. The author spends a single chapter tracing Sondheim's background (including his close relationship with mentor Oscar Hammerstein), academic preparation, and various projects. Next is an academic study of each Sondheim musical for Broadway, from West Side Story (1957) to Into the Woods (1987). Much detail is devoted to scoring, specialty songs, and considerations inherent in each production, such as the Kabuki element in Pacific Overtures (1973) and the 19th-century period tone in A Little Night Music (1973). Banfield, who had his subject's full cooperation, includes an abundance of musical examples along with structure charts pertaining to lyric development or song placement. This outstanding work belongs in every academic library with 20th-century music or theater collections.-- Diane H. Albosta, Episcopal H.S. Lib., Alexandria, Va.
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