The title of the play is ironic, nodding toward "overture" as a musical form, and archly noting that the initiatives of the Western powers for commercial exploitation of the Pacific nation were anything but pacific overtures....
The play was presented in Kabuki style, with men playing women's parts and set changes made in full view of the audience by men dressed in black. "Pacific Overtures" opened to mixed reviews and closed after six months, yet today the score is widely considered to be one of Sondheim's finest. Built around a quasi-Japanese pentatonic scale, the music contrasts Japanese contemplation ("There is No Other Way") with Western ingeniousness ("Please Hello," "Pretty Lady").... [John] Weidman wrote an underrated libretto, telling the massive story from the points of view of two Japanese men, a samurai and a fisherman.
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