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  1. #1

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    Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    A lot of people here recommended that I view a broadway performance of Sweeney Todd that starred Angela Lansbury.

    So I searched and search on Amazon and found a DVD being sold of a broadway performance that was televised in 1982 and was recorded in Los Angeles. It stars Angela Lansbury as Nellie Lovett and George Hearn as Sweeney Todd.

    I really want to buy it because I heard Angela and George do a stunning job. But before I do buy it, has anyone else seen this version?

    I also heard good reviews regarding Len Cariou's performance as Sweeney, but all I can find is video's of him on YouTube and a CD available for purchase at Amazon. I can't find any of his Sweeney Todd performances on DVD though .

    I really hope that the version George and Angela star in is a musical version because I want to hear them perform the songs I enjoy so much in the movie.

    So, is the 1982 version of Sweeney Todd, starring Angela Lansbury and George Hearn worth checking out? Have any of you seen it? I am very curious as to how this is played off on Broadway and how it is different from the movie version.

    Please help me out in this decision making process. I would really appreciate your input.

  2. #2

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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    This was the first performance I saw of Sweeney Todd and it was good. It was the musical as it was filmed on the stage. It was great seeing Angela Lansbury in that roll.

    Get the DVD ... you won't regret it.


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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    Is it worth checking out? Absolutely. It is a fully-produced production, unlike the recent revival.

    I saw a touring company of the revival and, if I didn't know the show, would've been totally lost. The DVD you're talking about uses full sets and costumes, and each actor plays one role. The revival doubles up the cast, doesn't use full sets, and all dialog is delivered straight out to the audience instead of to the other character in the scene.

    I own the DVD you're talking about and think you'll be pleased.

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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    The video production is the one I first saw, many years before the movie came out, and it's great! As you may already know, it features lots of material that was cut out of the movie, including a few songs - like the opening number! Having seen some clips of it again after seeing the movie, it's interesting to see just how different Hearn and Lansbury's interpretations of these characters are than Depp and Bohnam-Carter's.
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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    I really want to hear the Ballad of Sweeney Todd. I heard it is very good compared to the Instrumental version included in the film.

    I hope to order the DVD on Friday, when I get paid and after I have my car worked on .

  6. #6

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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    Absolutely, 100% get the DVD. You won't regret it. I have it on my shelf. It is the original stage version filmed on the stage with several of the original cast members. Something that I wish were done with more shows.




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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    I'm getting more excited about it . I kinda want to order it now, but I better see how much my timing belt is gonna cost . If I get my car back tomorrow night and still have some money in the bank, I will order it tomorrow and get the DVD by Saturday. Otherwise I will have to wait to order it until Thursday and get the DVD by Monday .

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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    This DVD is kind of the Gold Standard. You can't go wrong by ordering it.
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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    Quote Originally Posted by dougeebear View Post
    Is it worth checking out? Absolutely. It is a fully-produced production, unlike the recent revival.

    I saw a touring company of the revival and, if I didn't know the show, would've been totally lost. The DVD you're talking about uses full sets and costumes, and each actor plays one role. The revival doubles up the cast, doesn't use full sets, and all dialog is delivered straight out to the audience instead of to the other character in the scene.

    I own the DVD you're talking about and think you'll be pleased.
    I know what you mean. People would be completely lost. But you have to admit, those are some amazing actors/musicians. Besides a few minor problems, it was a great show.
    Sorry back to your discussion

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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    I ordered the DVD on Amazon today !

  11. #11

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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    This recording of it is great! Even parts of it on youtube look good. So I would definitely not regret it. I love Sweeney Todd, and Angela Lansbury has such an interesting take on Mrs. Lovett.
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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    FINALLY!! After two weeks of waiting, I finally got a copy of the DVD yesterday!!

    But here is the problem I had. When I ordered the DVD on May 31, It did get shipped out. But it never arrived here. Last update found on the USPS website said it arrived in Louisville on Saturday on June 7. So I should have had that by Monday because I live close to Louisville. NOPE. Never came in the mail. So I called Amazon Tuesday night and they shipped me another copy of the DVD overnight. I got THAT copy yesterday but have no clue where the copy is that I ordered two weeks ago.

    Anyway, here is my review.

    1) All the actors had tremendous singing voices! I especially loved the performance the actor who played Anthony Hope gave. He had such a wonderful singing voice!

    2) George Hearn is a wonderful Sweeney Todd. But I also think Johnny Depp made a wonderful Sweeney Todd. After seeing the film and the Broadway show, I like both of their versions of Sweeney for different reasons. But as far as singing goes, I think George Hearn did a better job.

    3) Angela Lansbury. I just love her. What can I say? Her version of Nellie Lovett is a bit more comical than Carter's version. Lansbury's Lovett is also more lost in the head if you know what I mean. I also like both Helena Bonham Carter's and Angela Lansbury's Lovett for seperate reasons. Carter's Lovett seems to be more nurturing and wants to settle down. Lansbury's Lovett kinda wants to settle down. but she really wants to continue her successful meat pie business. Plus I like Angela's version simply because of how crazy she is.

    3) Toby and Johanna. The woman who played Johanna in the Broadway show has one hell of a singing voice. Blows Jayne Wisener out of the water. Jayne played Johanna in Burton's film. Jayne also has a good singing voice, but not as good as the woman who played her in the broadway show.

    Ken Jennings did a superb job as Toby, but in my opinion, Ed Sanders did a much better job playing Toby in the movie.

    Once again, I like both characters for different reasons. But I felt that Ed Sanders' version of Toby was a bit more real. I also enjoyed Ed's singing performances much more than Ken's. The versions of the songs Ed performed in the movie were more fast paced than the ones Ken performed in the musical. But I guess there is a good reason for that.

    4) Beadle Bamford. The man who played Beadle in the musical had a MUCH better singing voice than Timothy Spall. I mean, this actor really had a good singing voice, there is no doubt about that. But in the movie, Tim Spall compensated for the lack of his singing voice by investing more in making the character more snake like and perverted.

    5) The Beggar Woman and Anthony Hope. When we watched the broadway version last night, myself and my mom laughed at all the sexual innuendo in-between Anthony and the Beggar Woman, especially when she grabbed at his crotch .

    6) The Ballad of Sweeney Todd. I really wish they included this song on the Movie soundtrack. It's really good and I would have loved to hear it performed with a bigger orchestra.

    7) I also enjoyed the Broadway version because it had so many things that did not make it to the movies, like the song about Johanna and Anthony getting married and the whole version of City On Fire. In fact, all the songs in the movie were edited down. In the movie, we did not get to see Anthony, Johanna, and the police make "The Discovery" and we did not get to see Toby almost ambused by the crowd after they found out Pirelli's Miracle Elixir was made of piss.

    But regardless, I like the movie's ending more than the Broadway show's ending.

    8) But to just sum it all up. I loved both the movie AND this version of the Broadway show for many different reasons. In fact, I primarily liked them because they were different.

  13. #13

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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    I'm glad you enjoyed the Broadway version!

    I first saw Sweeney Todd several years back when the local community college put it on - they did a really nice job, and I instantly loved the show. I saw the broadway dvd for the first time about a year before the movie came out. I like the broadway version better for a couple reasons - mainly because in trying to achieve a darker tone, several of the funniest bits were changed/omitted. The movie was gorgeously filmed, though. I'd still recommend it, but if it's at all possible, watch the original version first.
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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    I do also recommend seeing the Broadway DVD first. They were just so clever with the Mrs. Lovett's Meat Pie Bakery/Barber Parlor set they built. I love how that set is so small, but they utilized it in so many ways. Now that's creative thinking!

    OH! I finally did get the DVD I ordered two weeks ago in the mail today . It came after I made my first post.

    Gotta send it right back to Amazon though because I don't want to get charged for both of them.

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    Re: Sweeney Todd Broadway Question

    I found this neat website called Sondheim.com just right now and saw this interesting interview with Ken Jennings that was posted. Ken Jennings played Tobias Ragg. The interview was done in 1998.

    Here is the link: http://www.sondheim.com/features/ken_jennings.html

    Here is an excerpt:

    ...


    Sure, and how did you come to be cast in Sweeney?
    Sweeney was my second Broadway show. I had an agent, got an audition and went in and sang for them and was asked to come back. I don't even think I had to read for them, I'm not sure about that. I sang a couple of times and was called and I had the job. What was it like auditioning, was Sondheim there?
    No, but he was there at the early rehearsals. Boy, that was intimidating. It was perhaps the third rehearsal and we were all astonished that he was there so early on because, I mean, we had just gotten the music, you know, and it was so fresh. Luckily I had put in a couple hours at home the first couple of nights because it was really intimidating to have him sitting a few feet away. It wouldn't have been so bad the second week of rehearsal. But it was like the third day! Oh that was really, I couldn't look at the area of the room in which he was sitting. It was as if the wall was, you know, twelve feet closer than it was.

    ...

    What was behind "The Judges Song" being cut?
    That was cut in the third or fourth preview, very early. Sweeney had not achieved the acclaim that it's achieved in hindsight of course so people were not willing to look upon it so kindly. He was standing on the table looking through the window, whipping himself as he lusted after Johanna and audience members, I guess, just found it to be too difficult a moment.

    ...


    The set was incredible. What was it like working with such a large set and theatre?
    Well, you know, I climbed all around it when we were first in there. Climbed all up and down the stairs and everything else. But then, of course, I in my part had almost nothing to do with the set. From that moment on. I was only using that little pie shop. That little revolving unit, only coming up through the basement of it at that one time. So the set, for me, was simply like a proscenium arch. After I climbed around on it, it didn't have much presence for me. The theatre, though, was amazing. That was one of the few shows where the sound designer, looking back this would never happen now, there were two people in that show who did not wear a body mic. Myself and Merle Louise. We were only picked up by other people's mics and foot mics. So, the size of the theatre had an impact there because one had to be aware of projection. Now, of course, all the principals wear body mics at all times. But at that time Merle and myself were not on body mics.
    Did you ever have any problems with the set?
    Well, of course, there is the famous story about the day the bridge fell. That was the most famous of catastrophes. Well it wasn't a catastrophe, they were away from it. And it got huge laugh because Angela's next line was "Nothing's gonna' harm you..." That happened in previews, I don't think we had opened yet. That was the biggest problem we had. Not many other difficulties with the set. It didn't move much. It basically was static. The thing that moved was the pie shop. So, there weren't many things to go wrong.
    Any other stories about the show?
    One of the nicest stories about Angela Lansbury was, as I said this was the second Broadway show that I had done, the first play I had done was a straight play so there was no orchestra. I didn't realize that the first orchestra rehearsal was going to be as momentous as it sometimes proves to be on Broadway. All the producers were there and Angela Lansbury was very nicely dressed, not in her normal rehearsal clothes, and I didn't know that this was a special moment and I came in in my normal rehearsal clothes and we were in this dirty old rehearsal room in the Uris and we came up to the moment of "Not While I'm Around". Looking back this was so gracious on her part. We had rehearsed I guess three weeks by this time and part of that of course was done sitting and I came up and just sat on the floor. And Angela said to me, "You know Ken, there's no need to sit for the orchestra rehearsal." She just sat on the floor next to me. We did the moment. And looking back, she was not in her rehearsal clothes, she could have handled that in a different way. It really epitomizes the graciousness of Angela Lansbury.
    As for Stephen, I was always aware, not that he made me feel this way, I was in the presence of Stephen Sondheim. I could never feel comfortable with him. I was always sure that I was going to use a word improperly. I was going to use the word "laconic" or "lugubrious" mistakenly. I thought, "Oh God I'm going to feel so embarrassed in a few minutes." So I was so aware of my conversation when I was speaking with Stephen. I made myself feel awkward. I was always aware that I was in the presence of this master of language. I was tongue tied, in awe of him.
    With Hal, of course, that was not the case. There was a great deal of dialogue between myself and Hal. Just actor to director. Len was great. He was stern, though. He'd scare you. And you really thought he was going to kill you. He really did. He got so into it. You thought he was going to slit your throat on stage. It was terrifying.
    Anything funny happen during rehearsals or the run?
    I remember there was one time, looking back, Angela would be quite a cut up. It was basically very disciplined. I tried to maintain a sense of discipline, too. But I remember one time when Angela was making a meat pie and I was sitting right next to her on stage. I was a foot away from her. The lights were going down and the pie shop was being wheeled offstage and suddenly Angela took a wad of dough and hurled it at Paul Gemignani. He was conducting! Right from the stage! She just took that wad of dough and flung it like it was a baseball or something! I was astonished.
    I wonder what that was all about.
    Oh, she was just playing around with Paul.
    This was during a performance?
    Yeah! Paul would have an Easter bunny with a baton in his hand and he'd disappear and there'd be an Easter bunny conducting the show. So little games like this were played.
    How did you develop your character of Tobias?
    I basically approached it very, as I do most characters, the typical Stanislavski way. You know, discovering. It's like most actors do, you know, discovering the background of the characters, seeing what the text says about the character, and of course paying attention to how the director guides. Also, really careful study of text and continual concentration and delving more and more into the overtones or reverberations that one picks up from the text. Trying to dig deeper and deeper, trying to overturn stones in the actor's personality.
    Do you remember anything about his background that may have helped the interpretation?
    The abuse, of course. I was upset when they cut the tooth pulling for the road tour. I think they just wanted to make the show a little shorter. The tremendous abuse of the child was something, of course, that was easy to uncover. It was so apparent and therefore the tremendous attachment he would develop towards anyone who showed him kindness since no one had showed him any kindness and how attached he would get to Mrs. Lovett because of that. Also, in the last scene I would crawl around under the stage which eventually goes down to the cellar, the body parts, and rats. So, I would literally be crawling around under the stage during that moment. It was tempting to give myself some emotional experience of the trauma that he would experience in those cellars because to understand how the mind had snapped when he came out of the cellars was to gain an understanding of where his mind had gone then. The fury and the twist and the broken mind that developed in those cellars and that eventually caused the slitting of Sweeney's throat. One time, I think I scared a stagehand. I was crawling around underneath the stage and nobody is expecting someone to be crawling out through the shadows. How old was Tobias, as you played him?
    Tobias, we're talking about fifteen. Maybe even seventeen. Because of his mental difficulties he was probably, he might have been seven really in terms of emotional and mental maturity. Truly a child.
    There is much more to read and the link and much more to check out on the website itself. But I laughed when he said Lansbury threw a pie at the composer and the bridge collapsed when she sang her part of Not While I'm Around. Glad no one was hurt though .

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