Last week's column on the Top Ten Musicals on Video got quite a bit of attention. I was thrilled with all the web traffic, although a little baffled at some of the negative comments, as I thought I defended my choices pretty well. This week's piece could be a maelstrom, considering the subjectivity of the category. Indeed, choosing my ten favorite Sondheim songs is an absurdly "Sophie's Choice" task.
I've decided to base the list on songs that work out of context — a tall order given Sondheim's mastery of crafting music and lyrics specifically tailored to the characters and situations within his musicals. That means many of his greatest songs are too tied to those characters and situations to be enjoyable outside those contexts, and therefore are ineligible for this list. This is especially true of songs from the musicals Sondheim wrote with James Lapine — Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods and Passion. This also tends to eliminate bigger production numbers or even duets, although some of those made this list.
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