With Follies heading back to Broadway, the people behind that production will be thrilled to know that three of the top five Sondheim rhymes of all time are from that brittle and witty show (according to me, anyway).
He’s simply the master of shimmering couplets that you can’t get out of a thesaurus, and if you could, he wouldn’t bore us with them. (Hey, “thesaurus”/”bore us”! That rhymes!)
Anyway, back to the master. His best:
(5) “The hands on the clock turn, but don’t sing a nocturne just yet.” —A Little Night Music
The same song has the equally dizzying, “Perpetual sunset is rather an unsettling thing.”
(4) “This is how Samson was shorn / Each in her style a Delilah reborn.” –from “Beautiful Girls,” Follies
Not only do we get “shorn”/”reborn”, but the internal rhyme of “style-a”/”Delilah”. Pure genius.
(3) “Another chance to disapprove / Another brilliant zinger / Another reason not to move / Another vodka stinger / Aaaaaaaahhhh! I’ll drink to that.” –from “The Ladies Who Lunch,” Company
We’ve all raised many a toast to that lyric, even while wearing a hat.
(2) “Putting thoughts of you aside in the South of France / Would I think of suicide? Darling, shall we dance?” –from “Could I Leave You?,” Follies
“You aside”/”suicide” has always impressed me as the kind of thing I wish I had thought of.
(1) “When a person’s personality is personable / He shouldn’t oughta sit like a lump / It’s harder than matador coercin’ a bull / To try to get you off of your rump.” –“You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” Company
“Personable”/”coercin’ a bull”? That’s beyond cute and clever. And it’s therefore the winner.
Thank you, Sondheim, oh rhymer divine.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 21, 2011