Composer: Stephen Sondheim
Performer: Cris Groenendaal, 1982 revival
It’s simply a beautiful melody. But then Sondheim transforms it in its reprise into something that is even more amazing: a mini-opera sung as a quartet between Anthony, Sweeney, an old beggar woman right of our Weill’s Mahagonny (actually Sweeney’s now-mad wife) and Johanna herself, trapped in an insane asylum. The dramatic import of this operatic grouping is so amazing that it is transformed into a metaphor that speaks for the entire work, combining the hatred and obsessions of Sweeney, the desperate pleas of the heroine (Sarah Rice), the total madness of that heroine’s mother, and the pleading youthful hopes for love from Anthony. Musical theater simply doesn’t get better than this, and it’s a song filled with such a deep sense of possibility and utter failure that it quite literally saves Sondheim’s work from its basic morbidity, just as his “Not a Day Goes By” attempts to stave off the cynical tones of Merrily We Roll Along.