In this poll, we asked whether Rent and Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk the first post-Sondheim musicals? We asked you to explain why or why not.
We know Stephen Sondheim is still very much alive and very much still writing musicals, and are deeply grateful. But when Sondheim wrote Company and Follies they were definitely post-Richard Rodgers musicals -- though Rodgers was still alive and writing in the early 1970s.
Sondheim's shows moved beyond the kind of theatre Rodgers had championed and exemplified.
We asked if Rent and Noise/Funk have done the same for Sondheim.
Here is a selection of the results. Playbill On-Line thanks all those who submitted replies.
First, I find the premise of the question disrespectful. Stephen Sondheim is alive and productive, so let's not write him off in such a cavalier manner.
We are not yet in the post-Sondheim era. Rent and Noise/Funk follow well upon Sondheim's achievements in breaking the form of musical theater not only in structure but in content/subject matter. The two new shows follow in Sondheim's footsteps in this regard. As to whether these shows represent the beginning of a new era in the creation of musicals, again, I think they are continuing one which Sondheim helped start in the early '80s when he began workshopping his shows in places like the LaJolla Playhouse and Playwright's Horizons. Finally, after the emotional intimacy of Sondheim's most recent show, Passion, one can't even argue that the powerful feelings stirred in audiences by Rent and Noise/Funk deliver something "post"-Sondheim.
From Larry Zelnick:
From Mark Wilder, Composer:
In response to your survey question about the Sondheim paradigm (hey- a rhymn even HE would like) and the future of musicals:
Rent owes quite a bit to Sondheim's influence in its spirit and tone and perhaps in its structure, but little in its score. Harmonic and melodic influences are sparse. I actually think that Larsen's work reveals a strong Webber influence with its diatonic, smooth melodies, albeit, sung in a rock style.
I don't think that Rent or Noise/Funk are models artistically.
My reasoning for this is simply that the score for Rent is an inevitable outgrowth of the story Larsen is telling. A jazzy score (i.e. Kander & Ebb) would have been an inappropriate choice for this story. But Rent is one of only a few new musicals with a contemporary story about young people.
Though I haven't heard any of the music, I doubt that Flaherty's new score for Ragtime is rock-oriented simply because it would be anachronistic.
As an aspiring theatre composer, I think the most important influence Larsen's work will have on me is simply demonstrating that a young composer can get to Broadway. IT IS POSSIBLE! What a tragedy that he died before he saw it happen.
From a business perspective, however, I do think these two shows are a model. The business needs new producers. The only way to attract them is to insure they'll make money. Clearly the producers of Rent were savvy and opportunistic in the way they decided to produce and market the show. Rent will pay back, and then some.
This is what theatre needs more of-- great storytelling, great music and dance, AND profits for investors.
No, Rent & Noise/Funk are not post-Sondheim musicals. They are instead post-pop musicals. Even Andrew Lloyd Webber admits that he thinks this genre is on its last breath. Everyone wanted the next Les Mis. Now everyone will want the next Rent.
You point out that Sondheim's shows were post Rodgers, even though he was alive and kicking. But Rodgers had stopped pushing the boundaries and changing musical theater as we know it. Sondheim hasn't. So, when Sondheim does, then we can start having some post Sondheim musicals.
From Bruce Memblatt:
They don't even come close to Steven Schwartz. Need I say more;)
Post-Sondheim? I didn't know he died.