Today’s movie is a double feature: both the stage production and the Tim Burton film of Sweeney Todd. First up, is the filmed production of the Broadway Version with George Hearn and Angela Lansbury.
This is really the bible of this show as far as precedent and how to beat it. Hearn and Lansbury are superior as the demonic and impish Todd and Lovett. Hearn’s deep basso and terrifying expressions really make him a fantastic tragic villain.
I’m only sorry that Angie’s comedy chops aren’t as good in this as they’ve been in other things I’ve seen her in. She’s a little too over the top and her stiff-legged waddle and monkey-faces aren’t as funny as if she’d played it more straight. Yes, it’s stage. Yes that’s how 70’s theatre was, I get it. I think I was spoiled by seeing Emma Thompson do it in the staged concert on PBS. She is my favorite Lovett.
All in all, this version is a bloody good time and worth watching.
And then there’s this:
I’m pretty sure the creation of this was Helena prancing around Tim in a sexy lingerie and singing “Do it! Do it! Film it! Film the musical, baby! Come on!” and him eventually saying yes. It’s clear that Tim had no desire to make a musical. Half of the numbers were cut out, all of the crowd’s lines were cut (so you can sing it yourself at home!) But for that, it’s not a terrible version, if you look at it as bringing demension to the story that you can’t on the stage, the quick cuts, the crowd shots, the action, and the blood. SO MUCH BLOOD. LITERALLY BUCKETS OF BLOOD.
That’s really the fun part. In the stage show, the producers have to be conservative with blood in the show, so the actors aren’t slipping in giant wet lakes of it during the production. In the movie we get to see graphic portrayals of real blood, bugs, meat and other delicious closeups and subtle winks and nods that we’d never get to see on a far away stage.
Where it falls short is, sadly, the lack of experienced singers in the major roles. They managed to find great performers and singers for the secondary players, but Depp’s gritty constipated grunts, and Helena’s flat whistles utterly fail to enchant, and are perhaps the bigger reason Burton cut out more musical numbers. So this makes a great sing-along and it’s visually exciting. And for all the weak singing, Depp summons a wonder pathos for Todd and Helena brings the subtle quirky funny no problem. Of course, this is the REAL reason we went to go see this when it came out.