Musical Inventions

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On SondheimOn Sondheim: An Opinionated Guide
by Ethan Mordden
Oxford University Press
198 pages, $27.95

 

IF ANYONE has earned the right to be opinionated about the work of Stephen Sondheim, it’s Ethan Mordden, America’s foremost historian and connoisseur of musical theater. Mr. Sondheim, in turn, has held sway over musical theater itself as a composer and lyricist over the past sixty years, starting with his words for the songs in West Side Story and Gypsy and continuing with both words and music for more than a dozen shows, including Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods.

These works are part of the long tradition of the New York musical stage, and Ethan Mordden, author of twelve previous volumes on Broadway musical history, expertly situates Sondheim’s creations in this larger context, where their importance looms large.

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