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Reviews211 One is bound to be suspicious of any "authorized" book, but what is perhaps most appealing about Sondheim and Co. is the air of candor in most of the testimony. But then, one scarcely needs backbiting enemies when one's own self-assessments are so merciless. Sondheim's reputation for being hardest on himself is often on display here. Of West Side Story he observes, "the production was at fault but what the critics didn't realize—and they never realize anything—is that the show isn't very good ... it has a lot of very severe flaws: overwriting, purpleness in the writing and in the songs, and . . . the characters are necessarily one-dimensional" (p. 28). Most of the major collaborators offer their views to Zadan (Jerome Robbins a notable exception) and seem willing to express themselves critically when need be. The thirtieth and last chapter is, indeed, a rather strange and remarkable tribute to the authorizer's lack of amour-propre. For it is highlighted by Arthur Laurents (author of the book for West Side Story and Gypsy) coming down very hard on Sondheim's post-1965 works for being so "cold," three wise, insightful pages from Leonard Bernstein on "a certain inhibitedness about the old word self-expression" in Sondheim's music (p. 390), and even Gypsy's composer JuIe Styne lecturing a man of the theater he says he adores: "Chords don't make it. People aren't listening to chords. And dissonance is marvelous—but they don't belong in the musical theater. Steve needs to write some hits. If he doesn't, those shows of his are not going to make it." Broadway is rife with kibitzers like this, and it is Sondheim's most engaging characteristic that he has resisted the temptation to conquer Broadway by trying to re-write Gypsy or The Sound of Music, especially after the hopelessly smarmy, old-formula Cage aux Folles triumphed at the Tony Awards over his adventurous Sunday in the Park with George in 1985. But even in 1974, Sondheim was beginning to get gloomy about a theater that was "dying economically" and popular music "which has to do with relentlessness, electric amplification, and a kind of insistence that is . . . anti-theatrical" (p. 393). (One wishes Zadan had made clear which of Sondheim's views expressed here date from 1974, 1986, and—if any—from 1989.) At any rate, if the theater succeeds in not dying and Sondheim keeps his promise to work "until Broadway packs up and goes away," one hopes that an even larger canon will be subjected in the future to the serious scholarly studies in adaptation, musicology, dramaturgy, and word-setting it deserves. GARY SCHMIDGALL Baruch College Cherrell Guilfoyle. Shakespeare's Play within Play: Medieval Imagery and Scenic Form in Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear. Early Drama, Art, and Music, Monograph Series, 12. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1990. Pp. xi + 159. $22.95 (casebound); $12.95 (paper). Recently, I did a kind of review article on attempts to find medieval religious iconography in Elizabethan drama, and found I was pretty 212Comparative Drama skeptical about most of the alleged connections—so much so that I characterized the endeavor as a search for "Castles in the Air" ("Castles in the Air: Recent Research on the Morality Play," in The Drama of Medieval Europe: Research Since the I960's with a Bibliography, ed. Eckehard Simon [Cambridge University Press, 1990]). The supposed reincarnation of The Castle of Perseverance and other medieval plays in Othello or King Lear is both so easy to suggest and so difficult to prove conclusively in most cases that we are left with a paradox: the medieval heritage must be there and is perceived to be indeed fundamental , and yet it leaves few footprints that can persuade a hard-nosed sleuth insisting on particularity. The best laborers in this particular vineyard , such as Alan Dessen and Huston Diehl, admit the methodological problem and then expertly show what evidence there is—Falstaff's reference to the Vice, Hamlet's complaint about out-Heroding Herod, Henry Vs allusion to Herod's "bloody-hunting slaughtermen," and the like. Yet even these admirable scholars are propelled...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 211-214
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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