Sweeney Todd 0106


fye.000000400179838181 1/31/06 Used

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    Sweeney Todd 0106 Nonesuch

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Review Text Composer Stephen Sondheim and librettist Hugh Wheeler's 1979 musical Sweeney Todd, based on Christopher Bond's modern version of the bloody revenge play originally written by George Dibdin-Pitt in 1847, has had two kinds of revivals since the initial Broadway production, ones like that staged in repertoire by the New York City Opera since 1984, which perform it on a large scale and treat it virtually as an accepted classical work, and ones like that staged by the Off-Off-Broadway York Theatre Company (with a transfer to Broadway in 1989), which take a minimalist approach and emphasize the drama (an approach dismissed by some critics as "Teeny Todd"). Director John Doyle hewed more to the latter when he first staged the show at a small theater in northern England, even to the point of requiring a reduced cast of actors to do double duty as musicians. At the same time, he only added to the work's disturbing nature by making the characters genuinely disturbed in a show-within-a-show structure that had it being put on by the inmates of an insane asylum. ("Marat/Todd!" crowed those same critics, recalling the 1965 play Marat/Sade that took a similar approach.) The result gained enough attention to transfer to London's West End and inspire the second Broadway revival in 2005. The American recasting presents two lead performers who had already been specializing in Stephen Sondheim: Michael Cerveris, in the title role, had been John Wilkes Booth in Assassins on Broadway the previous season and also starred in a regional production of Passion with Patti LuPone, here cast as Mrs. Lovett. LuPone, in turn, had previously played that same part in a lavish concert version of Sweeney Todd produced and recorded by the New York Philharmonic in 2000. A comparison with that earlier performance is instructive. At that time, working with a full orchestra, she fully characterized Mrs. Lovett as written, a broad Cockney full of charm and humor, despite the blackness of the story. Five years later, her portrayal was entirely different. Playing a mental patient who is playing Mrs. Lovett (and playing the tuba, too!), LuPone largely dispensed with the accent and gave a dry, distanced performance. Cerveris was much the same, though he retained Todd's overwhelming bitterness (equally appropriate to an insane man, which is what Sweeney Todd is, anyway). On disc, the production's primary staging effect, in which the actors keep going back and forth from playing instruments to playing their parts, is lost. All one can hear is that Sarah Travis' orchestrations are much smaller than Jonathan Tunick's were in 1979. But the performances come through clearly enough. It's easy to tell that the production was intended to put an emotional distance between the performers and the play when, for example, the male role of Pirelli turns out to be played by a woman, Donna Lynne Champlin. The effect is interesting, particularly for those already familiar with the work, but purely as an audio effort, Sweeney Todd still works better when done on a larger scale, as on the Original Broadway Cast album. ~ William Ruhlmann

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. The Ballad of Sweeney Todd - 3:49
  2. 2. No Place Like London - 6:10
  3. 3. The Worst Pies in London - 3:44
  4. 4. Poor Thing - 3:29
  5. 5. My Friends - 3:04
  6. 6. The Ballad of Sweeney Todd - 1:45
  7. 7. Green Finch and Linnet Bird - 2:19
  8. 8. Ah, Miss - 2:18
  9. 9. Johanna - 2:49
  10. 10. Pirelli's Miracle Elixir - 4:42
  11. 11. The Contest - 2:26
  12. 12. The Ballad of Sweeney Todd - 1:33
  13. 13. Johanna - 3:25
  14. 14. Wait - 3:30
  15. 15. Kiss Me - 1:23
  16. 16. Ladies in Their Sensitivities - 2:14
  17. 17. Kiss Me - 2:40

CD: 2

  1. 18. Pretty Women - 5:46
  2. 19. Epiphany - 3:19
  3. 20. A Little Priest - 8:32
  4. 21. God, That's Good! - 5:28
  5. 22. Johanna - 6:43
  6. 23. By the Sea - 4:03
  7. 24. Not While I'm Around - 5:31
  8. 25. The Judge's Return - 7:49
  9. 26. The Ballad of Sweeney Todd - 3:05

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