Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sweeney Todd in Concert (2001)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 10 out of 10
Director: Lonny Price
Starring: George Hearn, Patti Lupone, Neil Patrick Harris, Timothy Nolen
Rated: Not Rated
Genre: Musical, Drama, Crime, Horror
Runtime: 150 minutes
Other Versions: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1982), Sweeney Todd (2007)

Initially performed on PBS, this is a wonderful production of a story that is as tantalising and forbidding as Mrs. Lovett's meat pies:

After he is wrongly imprisoned for life by a corrupt judge who wishes to seduce his wife, Benjamin Barker (Hearn) returns to London under a new name: Sweeney Todd. He joins forces with a pie maker, Mrs. Lovett (Lupone) to kill all those who wronged him. Sweeney, a barber, slits the throats of his victims while shaving them, while Mrs. Lovett turns the bodies into meat pies to hide the evidence. 

Despite the production's dark premise, this truly is an amazing musical.  George Hearn brings depth and passion to the character, making Sweeney more of an anguished anti-hero than a cold, heartless villain.  Deep emotion can be seen in just a glance or in an expression on his face.  Hearn's Sweeney provides just the right amount of bloodlust and human feeling; it almost seems that he is justified in his dark killing spree....almost.  Instead of a dark, sinister murderer, we are shown a man in the greatest pain; his wife Lucy is dead and his daughter Johanna is in the custody of the same man who had him imprisoned and drove Lucy to suicide 15 years earlier.  Of course, its not surprising that Hearn's performance is so powerful; he played the role of Sweeney once before in the 1982 film production Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street alongside Angela Lansbury.
Patti Lupone's performance as Mrs. Lovett is simply delicious.  She brings the perfect combination of humor, suspense, and drama to the part.  Her Mrs. Lovett is not only devious, but she seems completely competent, as though there is something wrong (the woman makes meat pies from human flesh!) but its hidden under the guise of a benevolent pie maker.  She is a fascinating person to watch perform, as she's so dynamic, and works perfectly alongside Hearn.

The two of them were supported by a great cast, including Neil Patrick Harris as the young Tobias Ragg (Toby), Davis Gaines as lovestruck sailor Anthony Hope, and Victoria Clark as the crazy beggar woman.  I have to say though, that probably the best supporting actor (apart from NPH, who defines awesome in every production he does) would have to be Timothy Nolen as the wicked Judge Turpin.  His character was dark, troubled, and multi-layered.  In Judge Turpin, we see almost as much conflict as in Sweeney himself, even to the point where both men give into their respective temptations.  Just as Sweeney is not totally a villain, but has his lighter, more sympathetic moments, so does the judge, who, though clearly the villain of the piece, has moments where he is very human and almost relatable.  Its hard to fully hate Nolen's Turpin, because he's so human.

A wonderful, wonderful production that I cannot recommend highly enough.  Must be seen to be fully appreciated, as I cannot do it justice on my own.

**This movie has 1 bonus feature!**
**This movie has 1 bonus feature!**
**This movie has 1 bonus feature!**

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