The Send in the Clowns origin story goes like so: In 1973, right before Sondheim's A Little Night Music was set to debut on Broadway, the decision was made to give a solo number to Glynis Johns, playing Desiree. Sondheim and Hal Prince wanted to lend voice to her character's inconsolable rage as the show wher best-laid plans and future fall apart before her eyes. Sondheim wrote it in two days. In explaining its dramatic origins, he says:
It’s a song of a lady who is too upset and too angry to speak – meaning to sing for a very long time. She is furious, but she doesn’t want to make a scene...So she gives up. So it’s a song of regret and anger.
I know the feeling. So do you.
There's a practical reason behind the short phrasing and complex triple meter scheme in Send in the Clowns. Johns had lyrical talent to spare but couldn't sustain long notes. Sondheim got around this: "I wanted to write short phrases, so I wrote a song full of questions."
Sound familiar? It's a sad hallmark of recent Tennessee teams: Inordinate depth of talent that doesn't do much in the way of Getting Somewhere. Fans turning against each other and the team. Inexplicable, infuriating personnel decisions on the field and in the athletic department. A Little Night Music, Sondheim explained, is written to convey ''the wasting of time and the manipulation of people.'' We can relate.
An angry elegy for a lost cause. How terribly perfect.