Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sweeney Todd

Sorry I’ve been absent. Caught the human version of Kennel Cough on the airplane trip and have spent the last week trying to recover.

Part of that recovery included laying on the couch in front of rented films, while Kidlet played at Granny’s house. Nyquil and violent/sexy/depressing/adult-themed movies. Restful.

If you are not bothered by gore, can take the bloodletting and inherent violence and Broadway showtunes at the same time, Tim Burton’s 2007 version of Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is for you.

I saw a recorded Broadway version of this musical back in 1991 in college music class. Loved it. So I was excited to see Tim Burton and his regulars do it—the material seems written for his tastes. So grizzly. The story itself is much older, of course. Read about it on Wikipedia

The best part for me? They retained the songs. Johnny Depp sings credibly, and duets nicely with Helena Bonham Carter.

The story centers around a barber returning to London from fifteen years of wrongful incarceration. A certain judge condemned him to steal his wife, the lovely Lucy who was “beautiful. And she was virtuous.” And the barber was…naive. (Great song giving backstory). Judge Turpin, played by a creepy Alan Rickman, took in the barber’s infant daughter as his ward, and keeps her hidden away from the world, turning aside would-be suitors in violent ways, with the assistance of his partner Beadle Bard (Timothy Spall).

Our barber, Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), has changed his name to Sweeney Todd, and opens a new barber shop in his old home, above the meat pie shop owned by Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), located on Fleet Street. Todd wants revenge for the wrongs of Judge Turpin, especially after Mrs. Lovett explains what happened to his family after he left. She returns his set of silver razors, and he welcomes his “friends” as his means to his end.

Romance, violence, social commentary, revenge, tragedy weave through melancholy songs that stick in your head. Mrs. Lovett’s fantasy of life down by the sea with her beloved Mr. Todd is especially tragic—watch Sweeney Todd’s face as she steps him through each scene. The street urchin she takes in sings a heart-wrenching ode to her that “nothing’s gonna harm you, not while I’m around” late in the film. This is Broadway tragedy done well. Sondheim’s show is a good example of how every character is important. Watch the puzzle fall into place—everyone is introduced for a reason.

Make sure no children are in the room, accept that you will see murder and blood, and enjoy the best pies in London!

Photos from IMBd