Tony Awards, 1973, A Little Night Music

5 Apr

a little night music

In 1973 there were only two real contenders for best musical–A Little Night Music and Pippin, I couldn’t argue with either one winning.  What’s interesting is how neatly the two balance off each other–everything that’s not in one is in the other.

A Little Night Music was Sondheim’s biggest hit, even pumping out a hot 40 song–Send in the Clowns.   It’s ambitious high-art themed around how love is temporary.   The music is based on Mozart, multilayered and difficult, bouncing from character to character adroitly until by the end all the threads are woven in a shimmery bittersweet whole.   The soundtrack is marvelous, but it is the sort of soundtrack that is only rewarding if you listen to the whole thing in a sitting–like a spell that takes a bit to take hold.  Subtle and refined, a meditation on how people’s hearts change in different points of their lives.

Pippin, on the other hand, is youthful and boisterous, bustling with energy.   While Night Music was based on music and singing, Pippin completely centers on dancing and performance.   The cast is eager to please.    While we don’t have complex orchestration, we’ve got extremely modern, spare arrangements, and two hits–Magic to Do and Corner of the Sky.   The dancing is by Fosse, and is (reportedly) one of his best works.

So while A Little Night Music is easy to admire, Pippin is easy to love.   A Little Night Music grows on you with repeated listens, while Pippin can be a bit repetitive.   But Pippin has great dancing!  But A Little Night Music has Mozart!  Sondheim!  Fosse!

I imagine the Tony Board getting in fisticuffs over this one, kicking each other and riots starting out.   If only every year we could have two nominees of similar quality!

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