Show Stopper, Scene Stealer / by Louis Holstein

Send in the Clowns is arguably Stephen Sondheim's greatest achievement. From the acclaimed musical, A Little Night Music, Send in the Clowns is a song about disappointment and irony. Desiree (played here by Dame Judi Dench) is singing to a past lover, who was rejected her in present day. The phrase "Send in the Clowns" is not referring to circus clowns, but is a theater reference for "the show isn't going well, so let's send in the clowns" or "let's send in the jokes, the fools." The song comes full circle as we see at the end, Desiree sings, "Don't bother, they're here." Meaning they are the fools.


This song has haunted me ever since I first heard it. The suppressed emotion, deep regret, and obvious suffering bubble to the surface not only through the lyric, but also the profound melody flowing in and out of 12/8 and 9/8 timing.

Dame Judi Dench's version is an absolute Masterclass. Elegantly brilliant. Enjoy.