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One of the great Stephen Sondheim‘s few missteps–1981’s Merrily We Roll Along–boldly uses a time structure that goes backwards, starting with the present and progressing (or regressing) back to the roots of the relationships.
I always found that device deeply annoying, requiring way too much brain work for the payoff, and coming off like a high-toned, Pinteresque gimmick that gets in the way of the show’s success.
Well, Sondheim is finally writing another original show (his last one was 2003’s Bounce) and it’s going to go backwards in time like Merrily!
According to a London Times interview with the composer,
“All Together Now, which he is composing with David Ives (Venus in Fur), is based on a ‘small moment’ in a past Ives play and focuses on ‘two people and what goes into their relationship’, Sondheim says.
“He began working on it in 1991; similar in structure to Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, it follows the story of a relationship backwards: from the present to the first meeting.
” ‘I’m a procrastinator,’ Sondheim admits with his affable growl. ‘We’ll write for a couple of months, then have a workshop. It seemed experimental and fresh 20 years ago. I have a feeling it may not be experimental and fresh any more’.”
I adore you, Steve, but I wish we could time-travel back to 1991 and start you working on something else!