Sweeney Todd Week Question #1 ~ Tim & Johnny's Vision

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Sweeney Todd Week Question #1 ~ Tim & Johnny's Vision

Unread postby Liz » Fri Dec 21, 2007 1:09 pm

****SPOILERS****


Here it is……the first discussion question. :sweeneyblue: Go at it, you lucky people who have already seen it. I have another 5 hours to wait. :sweeneyrazor:

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How would you compare Tim & Johnny’s vision of Sweeney Todd to the other versions you’ve seen or read?:sweeneydepp:
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Unread postby Parlez » Fri Dec 21, 2007 5:33 pm

I may be one of the few who's got nothing to compare the movie to except itself, as it were, in the form of trailers and interviews, etc.. And I'm soooo glad about that fact!! I'm eager to hear what others say by way of comparison; for me the film stands by itself, complete and perfect. It is simply amazing.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Dec 21, 2007 7:40 pm

Johnny and Tim have outdone themselves!!! The movie was true to the play even to some extent with minimal sets and a nod to the play with the shrieking tea kettle. I thought the mood of the movie, lighting, palette, costumes, captured the play perfectly as did all the characters! The character of Anthony looked younger and more vulnerable and the Beadle was perfectly smarmy! Personally I preferred the movie, the humor is in all the right places and the actors absolutely nailed it! BRAVO!!!!! :applause:
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Unread postby Liz » Fri Dec 21, 2007 11:09 pm

The man is Sweeney! Tim could not have cast a better actor. They were all great! I’m still processing the whole thing. As usual, I was mesmerized…..but this time by a combination of acting and singing by the man. The music was just wonderful. The music was definitely true to the play. I know they left out, “Kiss Me”, which disappointed me. And my son pointed out that he wanted to see more of a resolution of the Johanna and Anthony story. And then I was wondering if that was how the play went. I can’t remember.

What I think he could do that no other production of this play could accomplish was to be able to tell the story so that we, the audience, could understand what was going on without having read about it previously or even seen the stage play. I was really thankful for that since I brought my son, who had no previous knowledge of the story. This was done, for example, using the visuals of the back story while Johnny and Mrs. Lovett were singing it.
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Unread postby rainbowsoul » Sat Dec 22, 2007 9:12 pm

And then I was wondering if that was how the play went. I can’t remember.



I was wondering the same thing, Liz. I thought that the play ended with Johanna and Anthony walking in after "the deed had been done" and for some reason I also thought there was a scene afterwards (an epilogue) but I forget what happens in it :blush:
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Unread postby Kittycat88 » Sun Dec 23, 2007 8:05 pm

As I asnswer this question, I am struggling to open my CD of the soundtrack... :banghead: why do they make these things so hard to open.... uhgh, tussle, finally...

Okay, before the Tim Burton version, I had seen a stage presentation by a local theater group with a good reputation. I fell asleep half way through. Had no idea what I had seen nor could I figure out the story. So I wasn't nuts when I heard about ST at first.

I listened to the Angela Lansbury and Patti Lupone versions on youtube...less impressed.

But when I saw the first of Johnny doing the part...I flipped. I have seen the movie now and thing it is done brilliantly. Tim has invented the "actors musical" -- he is so right not to worry about the trained voices. It would be painful if Johnny or HBC were tone deaf - but they are fine and there unfamiliarity with stage singing or sining in movies makes their characters 10 times more believeable...

This gave me a whole new appreciation for Soundheim. I hope it will do that for others....
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Unread postby FANtasticJD » Sun Dec 23, 2007 9:16 pm

I've now seen three versions of this musical and they couldn't possibly have been more different from each other. My first was a full scale operatic version done by Lyric Opera of Chicago. It starred one of the foremost baritones in the world in Bryn Terfel, a magnificent and charismatic singer who is also a great actor. It was well staged and gloriously sung with full and lush orchestra. I fell in love with it top to bottom.

A few years later I saw the Broadway revival with Cerveris and Lupone and loved it just as much. This was almost a chamber version of the story, stripped down with practically no scenery, minimal orchestration, the singers also playing the instruments. It was a concept version - inmates in the asylum telling the story - and was totally compelling. I had forgotten how very funny it is. I fell in love with it all over again.

I've now seen the film twice and feel like I'm discovering the story and the anguish almost for the first time. There is less humor in the film - but more heart and heartbreak. I love Johnny's voice and his interpretation is deep and spellbinding. HBC's Lovett is far more sympathetic - and less ridiculous in her yearnings - than I ever thought she could be. The only very very minor quibble I have is with the young lovers, especially Johanna. He was ok but she was quite weak and their spark just didn't spark for me. That said, everyone and everything else was so very strong. For once Johnny didn't seem like a one man show as he was surrounded by such great talent in front of and behind the camera. I think Tim did a magnificent job fashioning the film. Other than Johanna, I can't imagine it being any better. It's a different experience than the two staged versions and all three have strong merit...but I'll always remember that final scene in the film. The visual image of what is almost a peaceful release after the relentless and horrific momentum of all that went before was stunning.
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Dec 23, 2007 10:24 pm

Thank you Rainbowsoul, Kittycat and FAN for weighing in. It is interesting to read the opinions of those who have seen different versions. I fell asleep—or more like tuned out the Angela Lansbury version. The Lupone/Hearn version was better. But the best stage version I’ve seen was the most recent (Lupone and Cerveris one, but with a different Sweeney and Mrs. L—the director is the same) that went on tour. That was the version that finally clicked with me. I LOVED IT! But I have to say that I don’t think I would have liked it as much if I had not known the story. That’s one of the strong points in the film—the fact that you don’t have to know the story going in. But they are such different versions. The play is simple but stylized.

I know what you mean about those CD wrappers, KC. I was listening today to mine and realized that Tim pretty much followed the musical score to a T. I remember hearing the opening instrumental when I saw the play. As an aside, I also think that Johnny sounds a tad like David Bowie.

I agree with you, KC, that HBC was a wonderful Mrs. L. I think she is the best to date. She is musically inclined, can add that touch of comedy, and she has a stage presence (it’s her face). Plus I can make out what she is singing. I find her more endearing, too.

FAN, this was my favorite Anthony and Johanna, by far. All the other Johannas (except for the recent Broadway actress) were quite irritating. And I found this Anthony the most handsome of the lot. But I’m a bit biased, as he looks very much like my son. :blush:
Last edited by Liz on Sun Dec 23, 2007 11:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby dharma_bum » Sun Dec 23, 2007 11:04 pm

I did not have the privilege of experiencing ST performed live, however I have viewed the Lansbury-Hearn television production. Performances that were calibrated for the nosebleed section suddenly were made up close and personal, and that created an huge disconnect for me. Sweeney was too over-the-top mad, and Mrs. Lovett was too cheery for someone alone, destitute and in love with someone who would never love her back. Toby and Anthony were just all wrong physically, despite having great pipes they were middle-aged men playing a child and teenager, respectively—it was hard to get beyond Anthony's bad comb-over.

I think Tim and Johnny's greatest gift to the Sweeney legacy is the finding intimacy in the story and anchoring all of the wildly outrageous behavior to an emotional core. if someone asked me what stage play was about I would describe the sweep of action, slashing throats and popping people into pies. If you asked me the same question about the movie, I would say it's about the hurtful things we do in the name of love, and how rage cannibalizes the heart and soul and damages it beyond repair. Anger has eaten away Sweeney's heart bit by bit until there is barely enough to keep him alive. But alive he is under that desiccated husk... we see it in his eyes, and hear his anguish and longing in that beautifully ragged voice.

FANtasticJD wrote:Other than Johanna, I can't imagine it being any better.

Johanna was my one very small quibble as well. She was the perfect physical embodiment, and up until her final scenes, fine. Her dream-nightmare dialogue exchange with Anthony was so flat and emotionless, it actually made me cringe for a second.
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Dec 23, 2007 11:21 pm

dharma_bum wrote: I think Tim and Johnny's greatest gift to the Sweeney legacy is the finding intimacy in the story and anchoring all of the wildly outrageous behavior to an emotional core. if someone asked me what stage play was about I would describe the sweep of action, slashing throats and popping people into pies. If you asked me the same question about the movie, I would say it's about the hurtful things we do in the name of love, and how rage cannibalizes the heart and soul and damages it beyond repair. Anger has eaten away Sweeney's heart bit by bit until there is barely enough to keep him alive. But alive he is under that desiccated husk... we see it in his eyes, and hear his anguish and longing in that beautifully ragged voice.


I like how you compared the two that way, Db. I totally agree with you on what Tim did with Sweeney. But I see the stage play more about trying to find the right blend of humor, music and melodrama. I think the most recent stage play did the best in that regard. Tim's version is a little darker and more emotional, but retains the music and a bit of the humor.
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Unread postby Boo-Radley » Wed Dec 26, 2007 6:55 am

So sorry to join the discussion so late, (real life you know). Anyway, I have to say I loved the film version, can't wait to see it again. Compared to the book and DVD version of the musical, I prefer the film hands down.

During our discussion of the book in comparison to the stage version, the musical play was much better in my opinion. The book, was a bit to simplistic regarding Sweeney's motives, and the relationship between him and Mrs. Lovett seemed unlikely for two people who had conspired together to commit the kind of crimes depicted. So for me the DVD musical was much more believeable with regard to their relationship. However what it lacked especially from the singer/actor portraying Sweeney was a real depth of emotional anguish, feeling of loss, and yearning. Moreover, I thought Angela Lansbury did a much better job of portraying Mrs. Lovett on stage than George Hearn did portraying Sweeney. Lansbury's Mrs. Lovett is really kooky, even her lust for Sweeney is comical but she sales it nonetheless. Also, and I mentioned this during our discussion, I found the Anthony and Joanna stage characters to be rather flat and there singing really annoyed me. Finally the toby character just didn't work for me in the staged version.

The film really is altogether another animal. Burton's choice to make the scenes between the characters so intimate that it's almost claustrophobic at times, just works so much better for this story. The fact that everyone is singing as their character, just lifts and carries the drama for me, and makes you feel as an audience member so much more a part of what's happening on screen. For example, I particulary loved the scene were Sweeney and Judge Turpin sing "Pretty Women" the first time the Judge comes for a shave. Johnny's body movement's combined with the emotion of the character as he's singing and music, had me cringing in my seat waiting for him to off the unsuspecting Judge...it was marvelous. That level of involvement with the film, I felt from the beginning to the end.

As far as the characterizations, everyone was dead on. What an amazing cast. Johnny needless to say just blew me away...his voice, his poise, his power in the really emotional scenes...omg. Helena's Mrs. Lovett is such a treat, she really gives the character emotional depth, but at the same time she's very good at showing the comic side of Mrs. Lovett as well. Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall are perfect as Judge Turpin and Beadle Bamford, they're both smarmy but not at all in the same way, but so effectively... and you feel never like one of them is going to break out with the proverbial villian's laugh (hee...hee...heeee) any minute. Sacha Baron Cohen was hilarious as Pirelli, and yet equally sinister when he confronts Sweeney in the shop. Jamie Campbell Bower, Jayne Wisner and Ed Saunders, I thought were very good for such young actors, and I think it was so smart of Tim to cast young people in the their respective roles, it just works.

Sweeney Todd is a wonderful piece of film making, Burton and everyone involved really out did themselves. So needless to say this movie has stuck with me in a way that the staged musical or book never did.

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Unread postby Liz » Wed Dec 26, 2007 5:02 pm

Boo-Radley wrote:The film really is altogether another animal. Burton's choice to make the scenes between the characters so intimate that it's almost claustrophobic at times, just works so much better for this story.


Boobaba, nice to see you :wave: and thanks for weighing in.

Wow! I didn’t get this on a conscious level until you pointed it out. It really works, doesn’t it?

As far as the play we read for ONBC, that was just so totally different than Sondheim’s version. Half of the characters weren’t even the same or had the same names. Sweeney’s motivation was totally different too—pure greed. I found him totally unsympathetic. At the time I resisted Sondheim’s changes, but after time and viewing 3 versions of the stage play and then the film, I have to say that Bond and Sondheim were brilliant to make the changes that they did. Even if the real (if there was a real) Sweeney Todd was more like the original play, I would have no desire to see that play as it stood.
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Unread postby stroch » Tue Jan 01, 2008 5:46 pm

This is really, really late, but I wanted to comment on the film version with Angela Lansbury and Hearn.

I think Tim was brilliant in his cuts and changes. He added the library scene with Turpin and further established his perverse nature; his sexual menace and obsession. Rickman is much creepier than the stage version of the judge, more twisted and evil.

In cutting out the Beggar Woman's lewd advances, Burton kept Lucy from being tainted by that same perversity, and it makes her plight more tragic -- she seems to be keeping watch over her lost daughter rather than coarsely mocking Anthony. She retains her dignity despite her appearance and her madness. Since one of the song segments is on the soundtrack, Tim must have made the cut late in the editing.

Another wise move was keeping Johanna pure and innocent. The passages in the stage version with Anthony and Johanna singing Kiss Me and flopping around on the sofa made her seem spoiled and silly rather than desperate.

Sweeney's lost ladies, are tragic and damaged, but they aren't part of that sensual, erotic steam that surrounds everyone else.

And our Sweeney sure generates that steam.
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Unread postby fansmom » Tue Jan 01, 2008 6:20 pm

stroch wrote:Another wise move was keeping Johanna pure and innocent. The passages in the stage version with Anthony and Johanna singing Kiss Me and flopping around on the sofa made her seem spoiled and silly rather than desperate.
I have a cat purring on my lap right now (priorities), so I can't check, but I think they deleted the crazier parts of Green Finch and Linnet Bird, Johanna's only aria, too.

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Unread postby fansmom » Tue Jan 01, 2008 6:52 pm

fansmom wrote:
stroch wrote:Another wise move was keeping Johanna pure and innocent. The passages in the stage version with Anthony and Johanna singing Kiss Me and flopping around on the sofa made her seem spoiled and silly rather than desperate.
I have a cat purring on my lap right now (priorities), so I can't check, but I think they deleted the crazier parts of Green Finch and Linnet Bird, Johanna's only aria, too.
Cat got up, so I got out The Singer's Musical Theatre Anthology, and yes, they cut the middle of Green Finch including a section when the key changes, suddenly gets quiet, and Johanna sings, "Are you crowing? Are you screaming?" which can make her sound quite nuts if done properly.


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