This delicious production of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," a musical thriller of revenge and romance set in Victorian England, features Broadway diva Patti LuPone as Mrs. Lovett and v... more »eteran stage actor George Hearn in the title role. Premiering in 1979, the legendary "Sweeney Todd"--winner of nine New York Drama Critics Circle Awards and eight Tony Awards--is recorded with the San Francisco Symphony as conducted by Rob Fisher. Now a major motion picture directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp! Opens in theaters December 21, 2007« less
Clarke Dunham | Pottersville, NY United States | 05/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As one who has been associated with the creators of "Sweeney" on other productions and as a champion of the original production, one still has to admit to the plot problems at the end of the original's second act. This new production effortlessly aviods those traps on the way to the most focused performance of "Sweeney" yet. Featuring two former Sweeneys (Geoarge Hearn as Sweeney and Timothy Nolen as a wonderfully re-conceived Judge Turpin), Patti LuPone making the role of Mrs. Lovett totally her own (no easy proposition with the spectre of Angela Lansbury always nearby) and a wonderfuly talented supporting cast, Director Lonny Price guides this production effortlessly to it's grizzly end. Featuring amazingly thoughtful camerawork which actually advances the plot as opposed to observing it, one gets to know the characters as readily as if this were a fully staged production. Then again--maybe "less" really is "more" in this case. The San Francisco Symphony under Rob Fisher is impeccable. If you value musical theater, if you value Steve Sondheim's supreme contribution to the genre, you must own this version. But go first class---own them all!"
Just as good as the original...
Travis R. Wilson | Corona, CA United States | 09/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Maybe even better. What the original show lacks, this has, and vise versa, but you have to watch the original one first in order to fully appreciate this revived and revised version. For example, the original has all the sets, costumes, and special effects, but the sound isn't really all that great. This DVD focuses mostly on sound and music quality, but you have to use your imagination in some of the action scenes. Certain things are strictly representational. First of all, there's no blood, and no barber chair with a trap door. Mostly when the actors get killed they just walk off the stage, but the camera work is fantastic. In the original show it was kind of sloppy at times. Here, the camera zooms in so close to the actors faces, in some scenes, that you can actually see the spit flying out of their mouths. That's cool! Additionally, there are certain elements that won't make sense unless you watch the original, such as the oven scenes (there isn't one at all in this version, just a curtain, but the actors pretend that it's the oven door, which is kind of lame).
George Hearn, as always, is astounding in the title role, and with age he seems to have grown more comfortable with it. Patty Lupone is sexy as hell as Mrs. Lovett, and Neil Patrick Harris pulls off a surprisingly convincing performance as Tobias Ragg. Timothy Nolen is of course fabulously perverted and disgusting in his role as Judge Turpen. To tell you the truth, I can't think of a single performer in this production that I didn't like, but I'm running out of room.
Another bonus, this performance contains Judge Turpan's solo, which was cut from the original show when it was performed for television. The original version with George Hearn and Angela Lansbury is available now on DVD, as well. Get them both, and then sit back and enjoy the ride."
A "Sweeney Todd" with more of a sense of gravity than before
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I only caught the end of "Sweeney Todd in Concert" when it appeared on the local PBS station, so I was gratified to see that the production is available for mass consumption. "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" remains one of my favorite Broadway shows (I really consider it an opera, but Stephen Sondheim says if you insist on having a label call it an operetta with a strong black comedy element, so I will just avoid using any word beginning with "o" and avoid the debate). I saw the story on "60 Minutes" about the production and picked up the record album and played it endlessly once it was available. I saw a road show production starring June Havoc, better known as "Baby June," the older sister of Gypsy Rose Lee; we are talking a professional vaudevillian comedienne who sang everything about an octave lower than it was written. But after watching the tour-de-force performance of "Epiphany" I was down in the lobby at intermission buying tickets for the next night. When the 1982 road show with George Hearn and Angela Landsbury was shown on television I taped it, and now we have this concert performance.The main attraction for me is that both the orchestra and chorus are bigger and better. The difference this makes in our enjoyment of the show is clear as soon as the company launches into the "Prologue." As for the performers I have to admit that I did not know that the title role was originally supposed to have been played by Bryn Terfel, so I was not aware that the majority of principle singers were trained more in opera than musical theater. After all, the recognizable names are those of a pair of Broadway veterans, George Hearn and Patti Lupone, plus a television dramedy star, Neil Patrick Howser, er, I mean Harris. Hearn, of course, knows the part of Sweeney Todd well, and Lupone puts her own stamp on Mrs. Lovett, making the pie shop owner's romantic feelings for the barber more believable. Director Lonny Price calls Harris the definitive Tobias and I would not be inclined to argue the point. Again, there is more of a sense of realism to the production, and less of the theater of the macabre, and I think this is due to the casting choices rather than to the stripped down performance of the show where there are no sets, but costumes and props. I think that the subtle differences in Hearn's performance is as much a reaction to the cast he is singing with as much as his take on the role two decades later. I can go through the cast of singers and point to the marked differences between these voices and those of the original Broadway cast and find a much greater sense of gravity, from Timothy Nolen as Judge Turpin and Davis Gaines as Anthony Hope to Lisa Vroman as Johanna and Stanford Olsen as Pirelli. This production of "Sweeney Todd" unveils new depths to the story. There seems an invaluable less here and it certainly suggests that having "opera" singers do other pieces of a similar type would bear similar fruit. I know this was done before with "West Side Story" and other Rodgers & Hammerstein shows, but it seems that maybe the music of Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd Webber might be better suited to such attempts than the American musical theater of the 1950s.As with any taped "stage" performance, one of the advantages is that the camera can get us close enough to see what the expressions on the faces of the characters. Yes, it is somewhat disconcerting to see the orchestra behind the characters, but you forget them after a while. After all, it is singing that you want to hear. That is why it must be added that the only reason to buy "Sweeney Todd in Concert" on VHS instead of DVD is that you do not have a DVD player. However, since this is the 21st century, that should not be a problem. The whole point of a concert is the SOUND and that plays to the strength of the DVD (plus you have three options on the sound to pick the one that best suits your system requirements."
J. Hutcherson | Los Angeles | 07/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I highly recommend this version of the show. I saw it live in SF and was delighted to catch it on PBS and now on DVD. The singing and performances are excellent. I have the DVD of the original as well and have heard Angela Lansbury is legendary. While I really loved Angela Lansbury I felt Patti LuPone brought a realness to the role that was funny and entertaining and much more preferrable. George Hearn is exceptional as well as Neil Patrick Harris. The orechestra is fantastic and this show is as close to perfect a production as I have seen."
Ah, La LuPone! Simply DIVINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
J. Hutcherson | 04/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Words can not truly express how great La LuPone is in this role. It is not fare to compare her with Angela Lansbury who is the definitive "Mrs. Lovett" but LuPone brings on a much darker and sexier "Mrs. Lovett" than anyone I have seen. George Hearn is awesome as "Sweeney" and his years of playing him have really made him the definitive "Demon Barber". I was lucky enough to obtain 3rd row tickets to the Friday performance of the San Francisco Philharmonic's "Sweeney Todd" and it was a theatrical experience that I will never forget. LuPone and Hearn are a theatrical match made in heaven. I didn't care too much for Davis Gaines. The rest of the cast was awesome. GET THIS DVD! You won't regret it."