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date: 23 October 2018

Abstract and Keywords

Forum represents an idiosyncratic attempt to reconcile the principles of musical comedy with Sondheim’s avowed preference for writing integrated musical drama. The sources of its plot in Roman farce become a pretext for a camp pastiche of the vulgar clichés of American burlesque and vaudeville. By analyzing the dramaturgical function of the individual songs, the chapter illustrates the various ways in which their evocation of the thought processes of type characters motivates the causal logic of the plot. The ingenuity of their placement and form is shown to shape the mood and pace of the action, while their stylistic cleverness is revealed as an enhancement of the metatheatricality of Shevelove and Gelbart’s book, producing a play of self-reflexive ironies that foreshadows Sondheim’s later experiments with the nonlinear structure of the postmodern musical.

Keywords: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, musical comedy, musical play, Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbart, Plautus, Roman comedy, farce, Hammerstein, postmodern musical, vaudeville, burlesque

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