Political punditry aside, one of the reasons I like Mark Steyn so much is that he is one of the funnier and more entertaining columnists around, and, unusually for a right-wing kind of guy, his sense of humour is deeply influenced by his love of show tunes. P.J. O’Rourke may be up-to-date on the latest pop-culture fads, and Dennis Miller may love to flaunt his encyclopedic knowledge of every trivial thing under the sun, but Steyn has a uniquely passionate and historically-engaged awareness of his chosen artform, so when he drops a line from a Broadway musical into one of his political pieces, he’s not (just) being glib — he is speaking a vocabulary that he knows and loves; he is speaking about subjects that matter to him in a vocabulary that matters to him. (Y’know, kind of like how I bring movies into every conversation.)
All that intro just to say that today, in honour of Stephen Sondheim’s 75th birthday, Steyn has posted an excerpt from his book Broadway Babies Say Goodnight on Sondheim’s unusual career path, from the major artistic and commercial successes of West Side Story and Gypsy to the comparative, and almost intentional, flops of Assassins and Passion.
My favorite quote: “‘Art Isn’t Easy’? Oh, yes, it is, compared with craft.”