Times are hard in 1846 London and one must make do. So Nellie Lovett adds something extra to the meat pies she peddles on Fleet Street. The secret ingredient: freshly murdered victims of her partner in crime, barber Sweene... more »y Todd. Composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim refashions a macabre tale into a musical masterwork in this dazzling performance of the 1979 Broadway hit originally staged by Harold Prince. In her Tony-winning role (one of eight the show earned, including Best Musical), Angela Lansbury plays Nellie. George Hearn turns his stage role of twisted Sweeney into an Emmy-winning triumph. The score coils around itself in ever-tightening spirals. The lines ripple with black humor and madness. Enter Sweeney's tonsorial parlor. Attend the tale.« less
The Broadway production of Sweeney Todd is a raw performance and simply stated is pre T. Burton. Some scenes are pleasantly familiar while others are foreign and seem out of place. It is refreshing to see what has been recreated because of its strong foundation.
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AT LONG LAST!!!! Sweeney's Back Where He Belongs!
Robert Amsel | Steelton, PA USA | 07/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Sweeney Todd" has been out of print for many, many years. Video copies went for enormous sums, and I had to settle for an aging video copy I recorded when the show was first aired on television 22 years ago. I understood that there were some copyright issues that stopped the show from being re-released, which have apparently been resolved.Although I usually curse Warner Brothers for having the worst track record of any major studio for not releasing their extensive library of films to DVD, today I applaud them for giving us back this wonderful show with its delightful performances on DVD. Not only can we relish Angela Lansbury in her Tony-winning role as Mrs. Lovett, but we get the extra bonus of seeing George Hearn as Sweeney, to my mind the best Sweeney I've ever seen (and I've seen two others as well -- Len Cariou, who originated the role on Broadway and was probably the sexiest Sweeney (making Lovett's attraction for him perfectly understandable), but without Hearn's depth and a bit too American (or rather, Canadian), and Denis Quilley, who performed the role in London. Although Quilley's acting and singing talents were a match for Hearn's, he was physically not exactly right.As for the Mrs. Lovetts I've seen, the West End production's Sheila Hancock will always be my favorite for her ability to capture all the comedic aspects of the role (as Angela Lansbury does too) while still managing to plumb the pure evil depths and total amorality of the character. Ms. Hancock had the ability to make the theatre-goer laugh his head off one moment, and then to send chills down his spine the next. But who could not love Angela as well? And aside from Ms. Lansbury, one gets a chance to see several others from the original Broadway cast reprise their roles for this production, including the wonderfully sinister, powerfully voiced Edmund Lyndeck as Judge Turpin and Ken Jennings as Tobias. (Toby is not an easy role to cast, since one has to practically be a castrato to sing it.)I was also fortunate enough to see the original Broadway production before the cuts were made -- the shortening of the barber competition (a wise decision), the elimination of the self-flagellation scene in which Judge Turpin, brandishing a whip, is seen in a black robe, his buttocks exposed (this should never have been cut but was probably considered too outragious for the out-of-town tourists to handle), and the removal of the Tower of Bray number (which, again, was a wonderful pastiche and very funny, as it added to rather than detracted from the suspense, and hopefully will one day be re-evaluated and restored to future productions). But at least, the missing numbers are all on the cast album for admirers of the show to enjoy. The role of Anthony was replaced in this production by Cris Groenendaal (who was in the chorus in the original), and who has a stronger voice than Victor Garber, who originated the role, but Garber is a stronger actor, as can be surmised from his long and successful career, both in musicals and non-musicals. I also enjoyed Betsy Joslyn as Johanna, which is a silly and comedic role which she milks for all its worth, and yet still remains a chip off the old block. It's Johanna, after all, who grabs the revolver from Anthony to shoot Mr. Fogg in cold blood. Finally, before receiving the DVD, I was fearful that I might be looking at something with faded color bleeds and poor video quality simply transferred to a different media. But I am happy to report that the show has held up well, both visually and audibly. In fact, in this L.A. production, the only thing I missed from the Broadway production (other than the cut numbers) was that in the original theatre, Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett make their final appearance rising through a hole in the floor from an elevator beneath the stage, as if coming back from hell for a brief encore. Now THAT was an entrance!"
Hearn and Lansbury in the "Sweeney Todd" touring company
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been watching this 1982 production of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" for almost twenty years on videotape, so releasing it on DVD would be greatly appreciated. The cast features three of the original stars of the 1979 Broadway production: Angela Lansbury in her Tony Award winning role as Mrs. Lovett, Edmund Lyndeck as Judge Turpin, and Ken Jennings as Tobias Ragg. Well, you can also add to this list Cris Groenendaal and Betsy Joslyn, who play the young lovers Anthony Hope and Johanna, since they were members of the original company. Len Cariou had been replaced in the title role by George Hearn, who was still two years away from winning the Tony Award for his performance in "La Cage aux Folles." On Broadway Hearn played opposite Dorothy Louden before teaming up with Lansbury for the show's touring company and eventually this Showtime production of the musical. Stephen Sondheim has said that if people insist on putting "Sweeney Todd" into a category it would be black comic operetta, which is as good a way as any of defining its uniqueness. If you are going to have a barber who slits the throats of his customer team up with a woman who bakes the corpses into meat pies, then black comedy would be the way to go. But what makes "Sweeney Todd" so marvelous is that it mixes the dark comedy with chilling horror. For the most part the comedy is carried by Lansbury's Mrs. Lovett, starting with "The Worst Pies in Lond," while Hearn's Todd provides the chills, beginning with the hauntingly beautiful "My Friends," sung to his razors. Of course, it is "A Little Priest" that brings these two elements together, but while it is no doubt the show's signature piece it is not the supreme dramatic moment. That comes right before that glorious end to Act I when Hearn signs "Epiphany," which for me remains the song I would most like to be able to do on Broadway, although I can forget about matching Hearn's tour-de-force performance. When you consider that the last three songs of Act I are "Pretty Women," "Epiphany," and "A Little Priest," it is difficult to imagine a show having a stronger ending before Intermission. There is a sense in which Act II does not measure up, but that is become the bloody climax to "Sweeney Todd" rests more on action than songs. I can still remember watching it for the first time, in live performance fortunately, and thinking that they were reaching the point where things were going too far and the tragedy was about to become too complete. The only real complaint about this video production is that unlike the original cast album or what you are subjected to in live performance, the steam whistle that accompanies each slash across a victim's throat does not make your nervous system explode."
Sweeney Todd (1982)
keauxgeigh | San Francisco, CA USA | 03/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The LA production that was filmed is electrifying, the performances staggering and the set mind-boggling. George Hearn is frightening, thunderous, and passionate in the role. Angela Lansbury is deliciously devious, and delectably unscrupulous, and gives comedy relief to an otherwise horrific subject matter. I've never seen Len Cariou play the role, but he's on the original cast CD. Hearn plays Todd with explosive, raging anger, while Cariou sounds like his Todd is more seething and brooding. Cariou is a lava flow compared to Hearn's volcano. Both are effective, but I prefer Hearn's Todd and would give an arm to have the 1982 performance on DVD. Not my arm, of course."
Greatly improved over previous VHS release
Mark Andrew Lawrence | Toronto | 05/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Much care has been taken on this DVD transfer. The sound, which was always muddy on the original VHS release is much crisper and clearer. The organ prelude which was faded on the VHS release continues now right up until the factory whistle.One person here commented that he could not hear the audience. The audience is there in the extreme left and right channels just as always. Maybe you need to get your sound system tweaked? Or use the 2 channel stereo mix. But it's all there. Best of all this transfer brings out details in the orchestra that were never heard before.The performances remain as vivid as when this production was first broadcast in 1982. I have always had minor reservations about Betsy Joslyn's cross-eyed Joanna and some of the cuts made in the show: The tooth-pulling section of "The Contest", the Judge's whipping number, and most of the "Parlour Songs" were trimmed form the show due to overlength. The road tour set is not as elaborate as the one used on Broadway (in the opening and closing numbers Sweeney Todd rose out of the stage on a lift... very effective!) but this is the SWEENEY TODD that Hal Prince staged.One other bit of good news that no one else here has mentioned: There are subtitles so you can follow along the trickier lyrics. Strange that there are none on the DVD's of INTO THE WOODS, PASSION or SUNDAY IN THE PARK. It's most welcome on SWEENEY TODD. Of course it is best to see stage musicals live in the theatre, but this video production offers a good approximation of what it was like when SWEENEY TODD was unleashed on us 25 years ago."
Finally! Thank you, Image Entertainment!
K. Tweedy | Kauai, HI USA | 04/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had this performance of the L.A. Production on LaserDisc and alas, both of my LaserDisc players bit the dust! I've been emailing Image Entertainment for months begging them to issue this on DVD. (...) I just viewed the San Francisco Symphony "Concert Production" (with the participation of Sondheim and George Hearn) and it, too, is excellent, thought the theatricality on a symphony stage cannot match the staging even as done in the Los Angeles "road company". And THIS version has a true treasure of Sondheim -- for which he tailored the vocal role down to the NOTE, we hear -- the marvelous Angela Lansbury!I'm pre-ordering mine right now!"