(Jesse Green’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/27; via Pam Green.)

A comedy number from the flop “Mack & Mabel” found the unexpected sweet spot between Irving Berlin and Stephen Sondheim.

It was always a canard that Jerry Herman, the big-thump tunesmith, and Stephen Sondheim, the big-think musical dramatist, represented opposing and hostile camps.

 

In fact, they were doing the same thing: finding ways to make characters sing as they must. Herman’s Mame couldn’t have pattered a list of cannibal puns any more than Sondheim’s Mrs. Lovett could have belted a brassy ballad about the boy that got away — though both perfectly suited Angela Lansbury, who introduced “If He Walked Into My Life,” in “Mame,” and “A Little Priest,” in “Sweeney Todd,” 13 years apart. The difference was in the stories Sondheim and Herman, who died on Thursday at 88, wanted to tell, leading their songs where they had to go.

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