Dec 15, 2010

A Lyric You Won't Find in Finishing the Hat

Sorry, can't resist another Sondheim post today. As a huge admirer of both him and Kurt Weill, I've been pained to hear Sondheim, over the years, vehemently dis Brecht and Weill. (The man who wrote Sweeney Todd, really?) So it's nice to see him on the record as preferring Weill's American scores to his German and French ones, though he apparently makes an exception for Threepenny, which he says he loves. Fair enough, there's no accounting for tastes, etc.

I was also just tipped off that Sondheim happened to write this parody lyric for Leonard Bernstein's 70th birthday in 1988 to the tune of Weill and Gershwin's "The Saga of Jenny," from the 1940 show The Lady in the Dark. Choice lyric from "The Saga of Lenny":
Lenny made his mind up
When he was three,
He'd write a show, a ballet,
And a symphony.
But once the winds were tootled
And the first strings plucked,
He decided it was terrible--
He'd have to conduct.
It's cutting but loving, and I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think Sondheim slips in a reference to Lenny's bisexuality (if "Schlemozzle" is supposed to be a bottom). In any case, musical theater nerds, enjoy this unlikely marriage of words and music, and just think--if Weill hadn't died in 1950 (at age 50), he might have lived to be among the illustrious slate of composers for whom the Hammerstein-schooled wunderkind from the San Remo wrote lyrics.

2 comments:

Ian W. Hill said...

"Schlemozzle" is a bit more innocent than that -- just check some online Yiddish dictionary.

As it was always explained to me, a "schlemiel" is someone who spills soup, a "schlemozl" is the person that soup is spilled on.

Jim Longo said...

True, but a "schlemozzle" has a distinctly male connotation (the opening to "Laverne and Shirley" notwithstanding), while a "shiksa" has a female connotation. THAT might be where Sondheim tweaked him a bit.