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Stephen Sondheim and the Reinvention of the American Musical$
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Robert L. McLaughlin

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781496808554

Published to University Press of Mississippi: September 2018

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496808554.001.0001

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date: 22 May 2019

With So Little to Be Sure Of

With So Little to Be Sure Of

(p.79) Three With So Little to Be Sure Of
Stephen Sondheim and the Reinvention of the American Musical

Robert L. McLaughlin

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter examines Sondheim’s musicals of the 1970s, all concerned with the problematization of narrative as an epistemological and ontological structure and the possibilities for detaching knowledge and identity from narrative. In Follies time and space break down, identity is fragmented, and narrative ceases to function. A Little Night Music is about the resolution of identity crises caused by the characters trying to live through contradictory fantasies. Pacific Overtures makes problematic how we know the past and critiques the colonial process. Sweeney Todd synthesizes the desire for conventional narrative closure and a capitalist desire, one that must never reach closure. The result is an enterprise in which the population of London serves simultaneously as labor, product, and consumers. Merrily We Roll Along studies the dreams of three friends, but does so in reverse chronological order. It calls into question both the anticipatory and retrospective strategies for structuring a life story.

Keywords:   Sondheim, Follies, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along

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