This book is wonderful in that Banfield has created a series of dissertations on the composition of each of Sondheim's most important works. Those of you who have extensive music theory background will find this book to be golden. Banfield uses musical exceprts and analyzes these small musical moments in regard to how they support the character or the situation and even foreshadowing at hand. I am reminded of a Bach sacred work in which the work is scored in such a way that the printed page creates a picture of the crucifix, yet at the same time depicts a remarkable musical moment. This is the sort of detail and craft that Sondheim uses. Sondheim is a man who is writing many years before his time. The politics and unions of New York Theatre have jaded him, but at any given moment one of Sondheim's works is being produced in revival and being understood far more so than the original production. "Merrily we Roll Along" is a brilliant work that has yet to be completely understood by the public, though "Sweeney Todd" is finally begining to be seen as the major work it is: one of the most important pieces of theatre to have been created so far. "Passion" was recognized as best musical at the Tony awards though never did a road production. "Passion" is brillaintly written so that there is no applause break, no intermission and the audience is not permitted a single moment from start to intense ending where he may slip back into the "real world." In this way, "Passion" moves more like a film, so that the audience, once caught into the magic, is not permitted even an instant of coming back to the surface, making the intensity of this work even more powerful. Sondheim's inteligence and insistence that our fast food nation use its mind to experience an evening of brilliance that often hits very close to home is both part of his brilliance and part of what causes critics to shy away. (We now laugh at the foolish critics who criticized the brilliant second act of "Sunday in The Park With George." Stephen Banfield's "Sondheim's Broadway Musical" gives us a book that is not only fun to read, but allows us to understand the work better. Before staging any Sondheim work yourself you must read this book and if you teach music theory, musical theatre or acting, then this is a book that must be included in the curriculum. For me? I read it both for the professional need as well as the intellectual stimulation. This is not a souvenier book but rather a brilliant study for those who are very serious about music, lyrics and the creation of character, life and art on the stage. Sondheim is an international treasure and we have the very unusual experience of living as contemporarys with a man who will be placed in history beside Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Banfield's book will begin to show you why.