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Mark Eden Horowitz

In the history of the American musical, Oscar Hammerstein II (1895–1960) presents us with what his Siamese king would have described as a puzzlement. Lacking the sophistication of Cole Porter, the verbal dexterity of Lorenz Hart, and the sly wit of Ira Gershwin, his lyrics, taken out of context, can seem hokey and sentimental. Will he ever be forgiven for The Sound of Music’s ‘lark who is learning to pray’? And yet it is his works, written in collaboration with Richard Rodgers, that are constantly revived rather than the flimsier concoctions of his more favoured contemporaries. 

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Finishing the Hat by Stephen Sondheim & Sondheim on Music by Mark Eden Horowitz

May 2011, no. 331

Given Stephen Sondheim’s well-known fondness for verbal games and puzzles (as a diversion from his day job, he has devised crossword puzzles for the New York Times), it seems appropriate to begin this review with a short quiz based on some of the ‘attendant comments and grudges’ referred to in the subtitle of, and dotted throughout, Finishing the Hat. Match the author’s critical judgements to the selected lyricists listed below:

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