Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1982):
With enough of a macabre story to help engage the audience, as well as keep them on the edge of their seat, a script that never gets old or grows tiresome of itself, and a powerhouse performance by George Hearn, this Sondheim interpretation of the barber-turned-monster is hands down the best play ever to be made.
Before Jack the Ripper, there was Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of fleet street. A gothic treat for the ages, assuredly, with vibrant performances from its cast that reverberate within you even after you watch it. The play begins with a barber named Benjamin Barker, portrayed by the illustrious actor, George Hearn, who has a lovely wife named Lucy and a daughter named Johanna. Things seem to be going really well for him. That is until the villainous and lubricious Judge Turpin ships Barker off to botany bay, probably a penal colony at the time of 1831, so that he can lust after Barker’s wife Lucy. Fifteen years have passed and Barker returns to London, adopting the alias Sweeney Todd, who plans his revenge, systematically, on the Judge and all of humankind with the help of a local pie shop owner named Nellie Lovett, played by Angela Lansbury.
Not only does Hearn’s singing abilities sound terrific, but they also give a ghoulishly chilling vibe denoting the mood of the play. Especially in the song “Epiphany” where Todd literally loses his mind. Sondheim says, “This is the most difficult number I had to write. In that, I had to motivate Todd from wanting to kill one man to wanting to kill everybody, and what I did was I took his motifs and mixed them together in kind of a nightmare piece. The major point of this number are the mood changes, constantly and that you’re watching a man’s mind crack.”
That in mind just makes it all the more captivating and glamorous to watch, with set design that just remains spot-on and costumes that just transport back to Victorian London, as if you were really there, reinforcing and adding on to the story.
In Ms. Vicino’s class, we would work on singing, breath control, and dance technique. Many of those same activities were utilized in the production. For example, voice projection, while staying on key with the music and musical dance were used. The only difference was that it was more professional.
Although, there were some down sides to the play. One of which being that Angela Lansbury’s voice can, at times, be very over-the-top and sporadically annoying, but she still provides an overzealous virtuosity. Another problem may be its incessant gore that will have stomachs turn and people cringe especially for those younger viewers or those that have a serious heart condition. Nevertheless, it still makes for good, sanguinary entertainment that makes it more attractive to watch for those that love blood-spilling carnage. I’m sure 300: Rise of an Empire could have taken a few tips on this gory subject, and the best part is the blood looks realistic in this play.
The story takes place in 1846 London, England and people who haven’t seen this play will think that it’s just a boring, formulaic play about revenge and mindless blood-shed and will never manage to be anything else but that. Well they have never seen this play. After watching the play and jumping with exuberance and adrenaline I thought/sang to myself ♪♪Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd. His skin was pale and performance was broad. He pleased the critics and gentlemen, who very soon after would see it again.♪♪ Sweeney Todd is probably the most awe-inspiring play ever written due to its impressive casting and incredible set design. Everytime I watch the play I just think to myself, “I will have an awesome play!!! I will have salvation!!!” Sweeney Todd delivers both evenly.
In conclusion, it benefits from a gory storyline, befitting of its title, a marvelous cast with immeasurable talent, prodigious musical work by the genius mastermind that is Stephen Sondheim, and an unspeakable twist ending that is so shocking you won’t believe it just happened on screen and will have your jaw drop to the floor.
5 out of 5 stars