Friday, May 8, 2009

Play of the Week: Sweeney Todd

"Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd," sings an unnamed soloist to start the play. The audience has already sat through an erie organ prelude and now is great ed by a ghastly and ragged company of London urchins. This is truly one of the creepiest musicals you will ever find.

We all know the story - especially thanks to the recent film starring Johnny Depp. A barber is shipped off to the penal colony in Australia to fulfill a corrupt judge's lust for his life. The barber escapes and returns to London to seek his revenge. Because he is not able to kill the judge on his first attempt, he teams up with his former neighbor, who runs a meat-pie shop, to exact his revenge on the whole human race and serve them right back to their unsuspecting neighbors.

This play is a combination of a Victorian thriller, revenge tragedy, love story, and moral tale. The music is stunning and incredibly difficult to perform; many opera companies place this score on their seasons.

If your only experience has been the movie, go out and find a production. The stage play offers many more dark little crevasses that the film, for its purposes, wisely edited out. Add to that the impact of seeing this live with all the blood and guts, but also adding into it some dark humor that the movie skipped... well you won't soon forget this experience. This play is popular enough that it's being produced somewhere near you this season - and the delicious tale is worth the price. Do you dare?

Happy Birthday: Oscar Hammerstein I (1847-1919)

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