Original Broadway Cast
1976: RCA RCD1-4407
Its not Sondheims most boring scorethat honor goes to Passion, ironicallybut its a close second at many times.
Next, however, is pretty impressive when staged well. Specifically I have in mind one production whose staging of Next, posted on YouTube, introduced an especially effective interruption to the otherwise relentless push of the song: the atomic bomb (singular only in conceptual representation, of course). That touch was absolutely arresting in its effectiveness, symbolizing the sudden reset of Japans increasingly aggressive expansionism and territorial/cultural tyranny and the pause before Japan got itself together again but with a focus on industry and not regional conquesta reset I think is well worth including in such a presentation of Japans historically intense growth and presence. Plus it provides a perhaps-needed rebuke to the lyrics cynical acknowledgment of those subjugated by Japan in its early 20th century rampages: (Going under, what a pity!) Next!
Sondheim has an interesting observation about that songs title, in his endlessly fascinating book Finishing the Hat: Next is the perfect word for a song which deals with the apocalyptic effect of Western cultures, especially contemporary Western cultures blasting open a serene, self-contained society that had existed snugly and smugly for centuries. Next! is an onomotopoeic blast if there ever was one.
He didnt happen to mention how that term or expression sounds in Japanese, but hey, nobodys perfect.
Why is it I characterize this as being so boring? Because it lacks drama. Its drama is inherently abstractfactual and objective. Aspects of dramatization are used to try to enliven itpersonalizing (for example) Kayama as character who develops across a span of years in the space of one song (A Bowler Hat)but if the listener/audience doesnt get a gripping buy-in to that character to start with, such material is just academic exercise and thats how it lands with me: over there somewhere in Theoryville. Well-meant and probably finely crafted but inherently unengaging.
Comments © 201617 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.