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Home > The Buzz > Everybody Says What? Sondheim in Translation

Everybody Says What? Sondheim in Translation

September 20th, 2011

Image via YouTube.

So, how exactly do you say “personable” and “coercin’ a bull” in Swedish? Well, someone has to figure it out (and make it rhyme) if they perform Company in Sweden.

For the recent Broadway revival of West Side Story, much was made of Lin Manuel Miranda’s translation of some Sondheim lyrics into Spanish. Fair enough; the Sharks would speak Spanish. Miranda is a Tony-winning writer in his own right and one would assume Mr. Sondheim was hovering nearby with, I like to imagine, a rhyming dictionary and a watchful eye.

But it did make me wonder. Surely Sondheim’s shows have been translated into other languages for productions in non-English speaking countries. Who does it? How do they capture his genius level of word play? And will I, the terribly provincial (and giggle prone) American, be able to keep a straight face when I hear it?

At last, I can say unequivocally the answer to the last question is “no”. Watch these videos and try it for yourself…

“Everybody Says Don’t” in Hebrew. I am officially the happiest person on the planet now that I’ve seen this. Not to mention that the choice of setting Side by Side by Sondheim in a yoga class for ambivalent yet limber Cirque du Soleil employees is pure genius.

http://youtu.be/kwIjtEXHpfk

“Send in the Clowns” in Swedish (at least, I assume it’s Swedish.) You know what? I can forget this isn’t English. It’s a lovely, simple song and it seems to translate fine (though the translation back to English in the subtitles is suspect.) What I can’t forget is that this is ABBA…or at least sung by ABBA’s Frida Ensam and produced by Benny Andersson. How ever-loving awesome is that? Perhaps we can find a little Sondheim doing Mamma Mia somewhere! A boy can dream.

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