Sondheim wrote the score for Burt Shevelove's adaptation of Aristophanes's The Frogs, which was staged in a swimming pool as part of the Yale Repertory Theatre's season. In Aristophanes's version, the play is largely a debate between Aeschylus and Euripides, to determine who is the greater artist, with the winner of the contest to return to Earth with Dionysus to save civilization. In Shevelove's version, the plot remains much the same, but the contest is updated to be a debate between Shakespeare and Shaw. (Aeschylus and Shakespeare win).
The production is mainly famous because of it's cast - Yale drama students who were nobodies at the time, but went on to great things, including Larry Blyden (Dionysos), Christopher Durang, Meryl Streep, and Sigourney Weaver.
The score consists of only a few songs. "Invocation to the Gods and Instructions to the Audience" borrowed from an early attempt at an opening number for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and the "Instructions" later used (with some updated lyrics) in Putting it Together.
After years of waiting for the full score to be recorded, Sondheim fans finally got their wish in 2001, when Nonesuch released a studio recording with Nathan Lane, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Davis Gaines.
"Invocation and Instructions to the Audience" and "Fear No More" can be heard on "A Stephen Sondheim Evening", which is a recording of a Whitney Museum tribute to Sondheim from 1981. That concert was turned into a revue called You're Gonna' Love Tomorrow. Much of the material from that recording (including the songs from "The Frogs") can also be heard on A Collector's Sondheim. The updated "Instructions to the Audience" can be heard on the OCR of Putting it Together.
- June Abernathy
Assassins is about how society interprets the American Dream, marginalizes outsiders and rewrites and sanitizes its collective history. "Something Just Broke" is a major distraction and plays like an afterthought, shoe horned simply to appease. The song breaks the dramatic fluidity and obstructs the overall pacing and climactic arc which derails the very intent and momentum that makes this work so compelling...
- Mark Bakalor
Which is not to say that it is perfect...
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