This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"Everybody die always."
11981 members | you are not logged in | 27 May 2018


July 02 2005

Whole Joss/Sondheim article. The Joss interview in The Sondheim Review, previously excerpted, is now online in its entirety.

"his creative vision, one that's "existential and bleak," though shot through with acts of devotion, courage and faith." A very good way of putting it.
That is a very nice article. I'm glad that it wasn't just about Joss gushing over Sondheim, but rather showed some nice parallels between Joss and Sondheim's storytelling.
Spectacular, inspiring article. Thanks for posting, SnarkOut. Sounds like Joss could put himself forward as quite the professional Sondheim scholar if he wished. But he's too busy creating his own extraordinary art. How grateful we all are, eh?

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2005-07-02 23:51 ]
Marvelous article. And, phleb, you said exactly what I would like to have said, only better.
Very nice link. I wonder how many Sondheim fans will discover Mr. W's work (or read this and think "what the hell...?") through this connection.
Excellent article, thanks for posting it. I too wonder if any Sondheimites who now know about OMWF will give it a shot.

And conversely will this compel any of us Whedonites to try some of Sondheim's works (particulary the ones he mentioned)?

Does anybody out there who is familiar with both Joss and Sondheim see any Sondheimic touches in any of the songs from OMWF?

And on a negative note (no pun intented) can I now blame seasons 6 and 7 of BUFFY on Steven Sondheim?

And on a positive note (still no pun intended) I suppose that if Joss is in awe of Sondheim as much as I am of Joss then I may have to reconsider my opinion of Sondheim. 'Cause if it's good enough for Joss then maybe it's good enough for me.
And on a positive note (still no pun intended) I suppose that if Joss is in awe of Sondheim as much as I am of Joss then I may have to reconsider my opinion of Sondheim. 'Cause if it's good enough for Joss then maybe it's good enough for me.

My thoughts exactly.....Oh and what phleb said.
If your opinion of Sondheim does not include the word "genius" then I urge you to reconsider it. I can't begin to articulately sum up my feelings on Sondheim. Put Joss and Sondheim into the same thread and I start feeling very much like the wretched worm that I am.

batmarlowe, OMWF is intrinsically, uniquely Joss Whedonian but arguably contains Sondheimic touches. (Oy; pretentious much?) I only say that because Sondheim came first. There's something in OMWF's intricately shaded interchanges and soliloquies that touches on the same deep, profound core of human experience that Sondheim so masterfully....I don't know, channels. Elemental heartbreak, bleakness, black humor, warmth, loss, glimmers of hope, i.e. the human condition - all these are articulated, explored and echoed by Joss and Sondheim through gorgeous language and melodies. They both expertly cut through the bullsh*t straight to the core of us, the root. It's sort of like having your deepest nerve endings agonizingly jabbed yet finding it all so damned beautiful. Yeah, that's right. Joss Whedon and Sondheim are S&M masters. Sigh. Yeah, I'll be taking *that* analysis on the road. You see? Me = worm. Can't do either man justice.

Just go forth and check Sondheim out. My favorites are Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George and A Little Night Music and.....I could go on. What we need is Joss himself to come to this thread and suggest to his followers where to start. With his influence he could start a Sondheim-lovin' S&M frenzy! But in the absence of that - the man is kinda busy, I think - I'm sure other whedonesquers will come forward and do a better job than I have. Plus the article that is the subject of this thread - there's a lot in there. Take it and run with it, I say.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2005-07-03 14:06 ]
batmarlowe, considering phlebotinin's reference to "Sondheim-lovin' S&M frenzy", did you mean to say "Sondheimites" or "Sodomites"?:)

Either way, I'll have to check out more of Sondheim's work. While long familiar with his name and the titles of his better-known works, cultural philistine that I am, I only really know "Send in the Clowns". Sad, I know.

[ edited by jaynelovesvera on 2005-07-03 17:34 ]
"And on a negative note (no pun intented) can I now blame seasons 6 and 7 of BUFFY on Steven Sondheim?"

I don't think so, though I've only seen "Into the Woods" (beautiful, brilliant)...I think you can blame "Everyone was very bored and very tired" :).

[ edited by Ilana on 2005-07-03 17:45 ]
batmarlow said: Does anybody out there who is familiar with both Joss and Sondheim see any Sondheimic touches in any of the songs from OMWF?

Phlebotinin said: There's something in OMWF's intricately shaded interchanges and soliloquies that touches on the same deep, profound core of human experience that Sondheim so masterfully....I don't know, channels.

Phleb - you've definitely caught the underlying essence of what both Sondheim and Whedon do. I think that you can argue as well, that what Sondheim did, was take the American musical in a new direction. He took what was considered a light, fun genre, and subverted it, using it to explore themes not previously seen in a musical. Remind you of anyone else?

Technically (as in techniquewise) the structure of some of the songs, the use of internal rhyme, and the "quintet" number (Walk Through the Fire) are direct Sondheim. And of course, Joss talks about Sondheim's influence on the commentary of the DVD.

I'd love to turn my sister loose on an analysis of OMWF, as she is a bigger musical fan than I am (which is saying something) and has studied Sondheim academically, but I can't even get her to watch the episode. What did I do wrong?

My personal Sondheim favorites are "Sweeny Todd" and "Into the Woods". And as I have said time and again, if I could see a fully staged version of "Pacific Overtures" I could die happy.

[ edited by Znachki on 2005-07-03 18:38 ]
Are the BtVS season five episode "into the Woods" and the Sondheim musical thematically linked?
I am not a Sonheim or Whedon scholar but I would say Joss and Sondheim both explore the dark side of people and society in a way that is truthful and palatable at the same time. Sondheim does not have perfect good guys or total bad guys. He has people. Very often they are people doing bad things and very often they are lying to themselves more than they are lying to anyone else. Characters are usually very complex and the shows do not always end happily ever after...or at least not in the way the characters had envisioned.

In OMWF I see a similarity at times in the use of words in the same compact and intricate way. Although Buffy's first number is, as Joss pointed out, like the the Disney opening "I want" numbers, every time I hear the song I think of Sondheim. The way the lyric fits into the melody just always says Sondheim to me. I also somehow doubt that the fact that one of Sondheims most famous power ballads is "Being Alive" is in anyway a coincidence. In fact I just went and looked at the lyrics to "Being Alive" ( Sorry, still cannot get the link thing to work by trying to follow the instructions on the How To page.) and a case could be made for Spike and Buffy's core relationship and what Buffy is actually searching for being laid out in those lyrics. (Not the way Buffy reacts to it however.)

OMWF borrows from a lot of sources, but Sonheim is definitely a huge influence. BTW did anyone else hear Jesus Christ Superstar when Giles sings “Is my slayer too far gone to care?” during Let it Burn? In the commentary Joss says something about Godspell but I always think of Superstar.

Personally, I would not blame Sondheim for season 6, because I really like season 6 and it would be a disservice to Joss to lay it at anyone’s feet except Mutant Enemy. Would Season 6 fit with Sondheim’s use of flawed people and destructive relationships? Absolutely.

Sondheim shows to suggest? Little Night Music is probably the most accessible both in the sense of likablility and because there was a PBS television broadcast of it and the original Bergman movie is available. For this crowd Sweeney Todd would also probably work really well, it is as close to horror as you can get andd still have all human charaters. I have not seen Into The Woods, but have always heard good things about it. I have always had a soft spot for Company, but it is certainly not one of the shows people usually recommend.

Znachki - I saw Pacific Overtures on Broadway around Christmas. Although I still have way too much to get done, to die happy now, it was really good. ;-) As for your sister, imagine how she will kick herself someday if she ever opens up enough to listen to OMWF. It is especially fun for people who know musicals...but you already know that.

jaynelovesvera - If I remember correctly, Into the Woods is about fairy tales and the consequences that would happen after "they lived happily ever after." ( So, no, not plot-wise anyway, though I think of the show every time I hear the name of that episode.
jaynelovesvera, I soon as I typed "Sondheimites" I immediately thought of "sodomites" and imagined a scene from a non-existent episode of BUFFY where (for some reason) Xander says "Sondheimites" and gets "eeww" expressions from Buffy, Willow, and Tara, but Anya shrugs and gives us one of her patented "well, okay" shrugs. And Xander says "No, not that! SONDHEIMites!"

After I posted I Googled Sondheim (which I probably should have done before I posted). I knew he did the lyrics for WEST SIDE STORY. A show that I can appreciate and I think "America" is a great song (and I mean truly great). I like "Officer Krupke" too. I didn't know he did the lyrics for GYPSY. I know the basic plot and I'm sure I'd recognize the biggest songs since they've become standards. Isn't "If They Could See Me Now" from GYPSY? And I had forgotten he did A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM. Which I really liked because it's very, well, you know...funny.

After that I only know "Send in the Clowns" through Judy Collins. I've only seen individual numbers perfomed from COMPANY, SWEENY TODD, and SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. All out of context.

Znachki, maybe if you showed your sister this article that might convince her to give OMWF a shot. Although I must admit I don't understand why someone who has academically studied musicals would refuse to watch OMWF. That's a puzzler. Maybe if you showed her she'd see all the academic study of Joss' work and that might be persuasive. Also tell her everyone at this site thinks she should watch it. That oughtta do it ; )

newcj, now that you mention it I do hear a little JC SUPERSTAR in the lyric "Is my Slayer too far gone to care". But I didn't notice it then. And SUPERSTAR is the one show I know backwards and forwards. I am re-watching season 6 these days and when I get around to Joss' commentary I will definitely prick up my ears when he mentions Sondheim. Then again if Joss is speaking, my ears are already pretty much pricked. Eewww!
Did you know that The Indigo Girls gathered some friends and put out a CD called JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR: A RESURRECTION? It's pretty interesting the songs interpreted differently. I particulary liked their versions of "Simon Zealotes" and "Superstar".

[ edited by batmarlowe on 2005-07-03 21:13 ]

[ edited by batmarlowe on 2005-07-03 21:30 ]
bartmarlowe - 'If They Could See me Now" is from Sweet Charity...which is also not your normal feel good musical. Interestingly enough it also has three women on a roof top doing a number similar to "America" from West Side Story - "There's got to be Something Better Than This" but it is book by Neil Simon, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and Music by Cy Coleman and was done some years after West Side Story and Gypsy.

"Gypsy" has a couple biggies though, "Everything's Coming up Roses" & "Let Me Entertain You."

I did not know anything about the Indigo Girls doing JCS...sounds interesting.
Everyone - thanks for your advice re: my sister. Personally I think she's just being stubborn. Probably a defense against the way her SO and I go on about it. Some day......

batmarlow - The numbers from Gypsy that I think really take you to Sondheim land, are not the "hits" but, Some People, Small World and Rose's Turn . Rose's Turn was not in the original production, but was in the movie and in some later productions IIRC.
Yeah, "Everything's Coming Up Roses"! That's the one I was thinking of. "Let Me Entertain You" is a song I'm familiar with but I didn't know it was from GYPSY. This has been an interesting thread. As phebotinin said it would be nice if Joss noticed this thread and threw in his 2 cents worth.
Sweeney Todd's practical attitude to eating kittens and people does remind of Joss's sympathic demons with their kitten poker and happy meals with legs. Todd's pouring word love too. Now I have to loan more Sondheim from library.

This thread has been closed for new comments.

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.

joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home