Swooning for Sweeney

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Photo from imdb.com

Sometimes anticipating a film’s release leads to impossible expectations. Not so with Sweeney Todd. Ever since I heard about Tim Burton directing this film and its powerhouse cast, I had been counting the days until I could watch it. Having been a long-time fan of the Sondheim musical, I hoped the movie would do it justice and it did.

We went to see the film last night in Midtown. With a packed house, I was glad I bought tickets ahead of time. The movie thankfully skipped the chorus verses sung throughout the show (which I didn’t think would work in a film), and began instead with rather gruesome opening credits and an instrumental prologue. The strong cast did not disappoint. Helena Bonham Carter played a dark and desperate Mrs. Lovett. Her version of this role was a little younger and sexier than usually portrayed in the musical, but I thought that worked well. While her voice could not compete with Angela Lansbury’s (who originated the role on Broadway), her acting, as always, was intense and spot-on. Alan Rickman was sufficiently evil and disturbing as the judge, although the film sadly omitted the song where the judge really displays the depth of his sick character. And then Johnny Depp – brilliant, as always. Not only did he impress me with a rather decent voice, he managed to play a disturbing Sweeney that was both sadistic and sympathetic.

I did miss a few elements of the musical that this film version cut. In the musical, Johanna is not just a pure and innocent engenu. She’s a little bit crazy and little less innocent. The show contains a duet which starts with her begging Anthony to kiss her and basically ends with them having sex while singing beautifully. Sadly cut from the film. She also shoots a man unnecessarily in the musical, an element of her character totally missing in the movie.

But other than that, the film did a perfect job of capturing the spirit of this disturbing show. With Tim Burton’s visually-stunning style and such a talented cast, this film beautifully told the tale of that demon barber.

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