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date: 06 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter places the musical theater of Stephen Sondheim and his collaborators in two contexts: the late-1960s aesthetic exhaustion of the integrated musical play and the rise of postmodernism as a cultural dominant. Self-referentially unintegrated and self-consciously performative, Sondheim’s musicals move beyond the constraints of the musical play and participate in the postmodern critique of narrative as an aesthetic, epistemological, and ontological structure. Company (1970) and Follies (1971) use a formal critique of narrative to disconnect identity from the structure of the life story. Merrily We Roll Along (1981) employs a backward-moving narrative to problematize a structure-completing, progressive conception of time. Road Show (2008) replaces the exhausted master narrative of the American Dream with multiple temporary and contingent narratives.

Keywords: Sondheim, postmodernism, narrative, identity, structure, entropy, Company, Follies, Merrily We Roll Along, Road Show

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