Cameron Kelsall: David, you and I recently attended the tale of Sweeney Todd, now which is back on Broadway in a large-scale revival starring Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford. And even though I’ve been intimately familiar with the material for over two decades—and have taken in several prior productions—it felt almost as if I was seeing the musical for the first time. Much has been made of the size and scope of this Sweeney, directed by Thomas Kail: its 30-member cast, almost equally large orchestra, and imposing sets that transport the viewer to the setting in Victorian London. With the exception of the productions that the late Harold Prince staged for New York City Opera, based on his original Broadway design, this is undoubtedly the most robust Sweeney to emerge in nearly 40 years. Literally and figuratively, it dwarfs the most recent Main Stem revival, which had Patti LuPone playing the tuba between Mrs. Lovett’s arias.
David Fox: My first Sweeney Todd was the Los Angeles incarnation of that original production. Angela Lansbury was then paired with George Hearn as Sweeney, along with a few other post-Broadway cast changes, including Cris Groenendaallas Anthony and Betsy Joslyn as Johanna. Shocking as this now sounds, demand was low, with the result that my student ticket—probably under $10—was in the front and center orchestra. Having by then seen national tours of all the Stephen Sondheim and Prince shows, I was already a fan, but by 1982 for Sweeney, I was also a full-fledged adult and better equipped to understand their work. Other Sondheim/Prince shows have meant more to me—Follies especially; also Company. But there was no doubting the brilliance of Sweeney. Of course, I was dazzled by Sondheim’s writing and by Lansbury, but also by Prince’s direction. He had mounted this Victorian melodrama within a Brechtian frame, thereby sharpening the social inequities underlying the murderous rampage. Happily, a performance in this run was filmed and telecast, so I can revisit it and check my memories…
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Categories: Criticism, New York, PARTERRE BOX, Theater
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