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Name: James the Exceedingly Evil | Gender: Phan Dude | Age: 28 | Posts: 1,907 | Roses: 0
Old 09-08-2006 at 09:16 PM
IamErik771
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Last night, I had quite possibly my greatest live theatre experience thus far: seeing Sweeney Todd live at Hawaii's Army Community Theatre. I had been dreaming about that night for weeks, and was thrilled to finally get a chance to see this show live after months of listening to cast recordings and watching the DVD. So, here's my review of that performance. As always, there are going to be spoilers... Read at your own risk. ;)

When I entered the theatre, I noticed that the set currently on stage was that of the bakehouse (i.e. the final scene), complete with the meatgrinder in the center of the stage. The sets were even more elaborate than the ones on the DVD version, and looked like they were made of real brick. I found myself wondering which version of the opening "Ballad of Sweeney Todd" they were going to do, and once the show started, I realized they were doing one completely different from those I'd seen or read about before.

During the opening, when the organ was playing, they did a quick flash-forward to the ending, [spoiler]in which Sweeney is cradling the Beggar Woman's dead body. As Tobias slashed Sweeney's throat,[/spoiler] the shrill sound of the factory whistle was heard, and the first Ballad segment began.

The chorus was good and able to remain in sync, but the soloists were often difficult to hear - I'm guessing they could only afford mics for the principal actors. The orchestra did fairly well, but I thought it needed a bit more balance - there were far too many brasses and not enough woodwinds. I was a bit disappointed that they left out the oboe solo before "No Place Like London," but not much overall had to be cut.

The principal actors were excellent, and quite well-suited for their roles. Before the performance began, I read in the program that Larry Paxton (Sweeney) was a lyric tenor. I had only ever heard Sweeney sung by a baritone, so I was curious about whether anything would have to be changed to suit his vocal range. Surprisingly, very little actually was. Some of his lowest lines were raised an octave, and "Epiphany" was changed to the same key that it's in on the DVD, but nothing else really had to be altered. His acting was absolutely brilliant - I'd rate it right up there with George Hearn's portrayal. My only quibble acting-wise is that I don't think he seemed furious enough during "Epiphany." He seemed more distraught than angry or insane. Still, some parts of his performance in this role made me think that he could make a rather good ALW Phantom one day.

Stefanie Smart (Mrs. Lovett) was an absolute marvel to watch in the role of the crazed baker. Her voice and acting were flawless, and although she didn't seem quite as crazy as Angela Lansbury's original version of the character, she seemed perfectly suited for the role. She (and also Pirelli) had toned down her accent a bit - she still had a pretty distinctive cockney accent, but my dad thought it was much easier to understand what she was saying much of the time. Since much of the show's power and humour comes from the lyrics, I'd consider that a good thing.

The most interesting casting decision was the husband-wife-daughter team of John (Judge Turpin), Lorna (Beggar Woman), and Megan (Johanna) Mount. All three of them have been operatically trained, and so I was expecting fabulous performances from them. They didn't disappoint at all. Megan's portrayal of Johanna was absolutely brilliant - she had a lovely voice, and she acted the part very well. Lorna's Beggar Woman had the appropriate mix of pathos and psychosis. John's portrayal of the Judge was appropriately chilling and lecherous. However, I felt his solo lacked a certain degree of passion, though that may be due to the fact that he was confined to a tiny platform on the stage for that scene. He more than made up for it in "Pretty Women," though.

Scott Moura (Pirelli) and Gene DeFrancis (the Beadle) were quite excellent, and for reasons that those who know Sweeney can probably guess, I thought it was a rather neat touch to have Pirelli be bald. ^_^ Unfortunately, they didn't keep the tooth-pulling scene, but I didn't miss it as much as I thought I would. Terry Howell, Jr. (Anthony) was okay, but had some pitch issues. He was also slightly off during parts of "Kiss Me," but that's understandable - it's a rather difficult song to keep up with, especially at the tempo they were going at. However, I was glad that they put "Johanna" (Act 1) in the same key as on the DVD, while keeping "Green Finch and Linnet Bird" and "Ah, Miss" in the original keys. Yeah, I'm slightly OCD about that sort of thing. :P

The real show-stopper, however, was Justin Hashimoto as Tobias. He's only 16, but had extraordinary professionalism in the role. His rendition of "Not While I'm Around" is the only one so far that managed to literally bring tears to my eyes. His descent into insanity at the end was also extremely well-done. I'll be truly surprised if he isn't nominated for some sort of award next spring.

There were, however, some technical glitches. The principal actors' radio mics weren't always working properly, and several clicks and pops could be heard. At some points, the actors were picking up each other's voices on their mics, making them sound a bit too loud. Tobias's cut out completely during the final part of "God, That's Good," so that was quite disappointing. Also, at one point near the end, when the stagehands were moving the pie-shop set, it bumped against a wall, and I heard breaking glass... x_x Didn't sound too good.

Overall, I'd give this production a B+. Very good overall, and some things to improve on for future performances. I look forward to going again on the 15th, and hope that the technical problems can be resolved by then.


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Old 10-02-2006 at 02:46 AM
fireflyjunction
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Well I won't say I love this musical, since it really is sick and twisted, but I do have fond memories of it since I got to play Johanna in the local summer production about two years ago! I'm sure it wasn't anywhere near as great as the major productions, (that barber chair ate up nearly all of our prop money to give you a clue as to how low budget this was) but the audience didn't seem to mind. Opening night was rather funny, some people in the audience mistook the first shrill whistle blast as some sort of emergency siren and tried to evacuate the theatre causing chaos. It took about fifteen minutes for the Stage Manager to convince everybody they were NOT about to die and get them back in their seats!
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Old 12-04-2006 at 12:28 AM
rosebud
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Well, I've never seen the musical, but I've read the synopsis and listened to the music over and over again! The storyline is rather...uh...disturbing, but the music is gorgeous! Poor Tobias, he was one of my more favorite characters. After the beggar woman, of course.:)


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Old 12-26-2006 at 08:20 PM
YoungGiry
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Quote:
Originally posted by rosebud
Poor Tobias, he was one of my more favorite characters. After the beggar woman, of course.:)
Yay, another person who likes the Beggar woman! I was beggining to think I was the only one. ;)

I adore this musical. I think the story is fascinating, and the music and lyrics are exceptional. I was lucky enough to see the Broadway revival of it, which was absolutely amazing, capturing the emotional heart of the story so purely that one can be completely overwhelmed by the emotion of it.



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Old 12-27-2006 at 05:58 PM
IamErik771
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Ooh, awesome! I've never gotten to see the Broadway revival, although I have the recording and have seen a few clips on YouTube. I adore Michael Cerveris' voice. My main problem with Len Cariou in the original recording was that his voice seemed far too bright for the role, but Michael has such a wonderfully lush and dark tone that I think he may be my favorite in the role.

Patti LuPone . . . I thought she was all right, but I preferred it when she seemed totally insane, like in the concert DVD with George Hearn. In the revival, she seemed way too sane and composed. The fact that nearly all her songs are put into lower keys also annoys me a bit, since she definitely can hit the high notes.


And now . . . For those of you who haven't heard already, Sweeney Todd is being made into a movie, directed by Tim Burton and due for release next Christmas! So far, the cast list runs thus:

Sweeney Todd: Johnny Depp
Mrs. Lovett: Helena Bonham Carter
Judge Turpin: Alan Rickman
Pirelli: Sacha Baron Cohen (Da Ali G Show, Borat)
Beggar Woman: Laura Michelle Kelly
Unconfirmed Role (possibly Beadle): Anthony Head (Buffy)
Unconfirmed Role (possibly Fogg): Christopher Lee

All of the above actors have been approved by Stephen Sondheim (the composer). I'm really interested in seeing who they choose for the roles of Anthony, Johanna, and Tobias. I think for Anthony, someone like Patrick Wilson would get my vote. For Johanna . . . Other than someone who's played her on stage, I really don't know. Not many Hollywood actresses can sing soprano, after all.

And for Tobias . . . The rumor right now is Freddie Highmore, which would be typical of Burton. And besides, the libretto for the stage show never specified how old he's supposed to be.


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Old 12-27-2006 at 06:09 PM
YoungGiry
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I like both Angela Lansbury and Patti LuPone's portrayals of Mrs. Lovett. I think that they both have their pros and cons, and each lends a slightly different tone to the show.

I thought the rumour was that Christopher Lee was being considered for the Beadle, not Fogg. But either way, it's interesting. I'm pretty sure that the acting of the actors chosen will be good, but I'm worried about the singing. I know that Sondheim has approved them, but I still feel uneasy...



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Old 01-27-2007 at 05:44 AM
Bella
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 Post [17]


i saw the revival of it back in march/feb of last year. i went with my chorus group from my school. I loved how the actors and actresses did the characters, stage crew, AND the orchestra! my fav song is most definately Green Finch and Linnet Bird....the day we saw the show, Patti had done an excellent performance...i still have teh tix somewhere lol.

when i saw that Giles (anthony Head) is possibly going to star in ST: DBoFS...i was shocked. I dont think i can ever get over him playing giles....lol...its awesome though how he's getting other roles besides remaining as Giles.

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Old 03-15-2007 at 03:18 AM
Erik
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Ooooh Sweeney Todd!

I bought the Patti LuPone and Michael Cerveris version soundtrack the other day and I've got to tell you, it's spectacular. I can't wait for the movie! I think that the fact that they're beginning to cast people like Johnny Depp (*drool*) in leading roles in musicals is definently going to bring a whole new audience into the addicting world of musicals. I'm very excited to see if the musical scene gets even bigger and, hopefully, more respected.

My favourite songs in the musical are *clears throat*: "Pirelli's Miracle Elixer" "The Worst Pies in London", "Kiss Me", "A Little Priest", and "Green Finch and Linnet Bird". Of course, I love all of the songs, but those are a few of my favourites. Hee hee. I love "A Little Priest" most, I think, but that opinion changes daily so pay no attention to that temporary note XD

My favourite quotes:

"It was a gate! It's the gate! We don't have a gate."

"Sir, I did love you, even as I saw you, even as it did not matter that I did not know your name"

"Wouldn't do in my shop! Just the thought of it's enough to make you sick. And I'm telling you them pussy cats is quick!"

Just to name a few XD

Okies, I shut up now. *scoots away*

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Old 03-16-2007 at 05:57 PM
MaskedNicci
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I'm with Samness, here. I just downloaded the revival cast off of Napster a few days ago (*ahem* Along with a dozen or so other musicals that I've been putting off listening to because of this and that) and I couldn't stop listening to 'A Little Priest' repeatedly! You have to get some sort of mental health for this kind of love, I'm sure!

I randomnly walk up to my sister, hold out an empty palm, and say, "'Ere, 'ot from the oven. What is it? It's Priest...have a little priest...."

She doesn't find it as amusing as I do.

Green Finch and Linnet Bird is my second favorite, merely because I can't get it out of my head for the life of me.

I look forward to snatching ahold of other adaptions of this. Mrs.Lovett is gold!

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Old 03-17-2007 at 11:36 PM
Wonder Wombat
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Oof.

I have the movie, with Angela Lansbury as Mrs Lovett.

We got it one Halloween to play A Little Priest at the trick-or-treat-ers. Dad dressed up as Alfred Packer and we made a little chalkboard with all sorts of sick dishes and prices--Bloody Marys, Lady's Slippers, Spiced Patty. It was fun. Mom didn't think so, especially when we went to the grocery store and bought a couple of cheap dog bones to put by the chalkboard on a platter. She said he was poisoning my mind.

But it was awesome.

And my sister and I routinely sing "How do you know that it's grocer? Look a little closer, it's green" while we do the dishes.

Mom loves that.

It's sort of a twisted musical, true. But then, I've actually noticed that the best librettos--and the best music--tend to dwell within twisted storylines. Or "sad" or "emo" ones. As in Phantom, Les Mis, Martin Guerre, Jekyll and Hyde, Sweeney Todd, etc.

Odd, that is.


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