A Tale of Two Sweeneys

I still have my month subscription to BroadwayHD, so two nights ago I decided to watch Sweeney Todd in Concert with Denisa. Nothing the kids would be interested in, so I picked a time when they were already on their way to bed. Except TRC came in and asked what we were watching. I told him it was a musical, thinking that would turn him off, and he decided to stay.

Okay, I thought, He’s 12. He’s up for a bit of a darkness in a musical. And he probably won’t last through it.

And then DC stopped by to see what everyone else was watching. Denisa said she could stay and watch a bit too, thinking she’d be turned off by the subject matter.

She wasn’t.

So we had a nice family evening watching a musical about a homicidal barber and his cannibalistic downstairs neighbor. And surprisingly, the kids really enjoyed it too. There were a couple of parts they found disgusting or boring, but on the whole, they were riveted. Go figure.

Since that had gone so well, after it was done, I popped in the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton version and we all watched that one.

Just kidding. Well, not kidding that I watched the Hollywood version, but rather that I let the kids watch it with us. Far far far too bloody.

It was really interesting watching the two versions back to back. The concert version was totally stripped down. No props. No big costumes. No sets. The Hollywood version was the exact opposite. Tons of money up on the screen for you to watch. And the concert version blew Johnny Depp out of the water. This surprised me, because I’d remembered really enjoying the film back when I first saw it. This time, however, the differences were stark. Singing was right up there as the main trouble. When you go from Patti LuPone and George Hearn to Helene Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp, you take an enormous hit in term of vocal skill. Night and day. This probably wasn’t as obvious to me before because I didn’t do the two viewings back to back.

But more than that, there’s a sort of manic joy inherent in the musical that was on fine display in the concert version but was lost when it went to Hollywood. The film is just too broody and bloody. Depp’s Sweeney is troubled and vicious from start to finish, but the Todd in the musical truly seems to love his work. He relishes it. He comes alive once he can start killing people. Plus, I think there’s a lot to be said for the show’s having a live audience. People you can hear laugh along with you.

The biggest contrast was in the number “A Little Priest.” It was a real show stopper in the concert. Just marvelous and fun. Depp and Carter weren’t able to keep that energy. That joy and sense of fun. And so it was a real let down.

In any case, it was a fun few evenings. Riffing on the scary theme, I then persuaded TRC and DC to watch the first episode of Stranger Things with us. That turned out to be a mistake. I loved it, but they decided that was too far over the scary line. Ah well. Can’t win every time . . .

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