Point out the title Sweeney Todd at the moment and most trendy horror followers’ minds will flip to Stephen Sondheim’s sensational stage–and later display screen–musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Road.
It’s not obscure why. Sondheim’s model of the story often is the most well-known of the final 175 years, and has been carried out by among the most gifted theater firms around the globe lengthy earlier than it ever got here to life on the large display screen below the course of Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter.
Mr. Todd’s historical past goes again a lot farther than the 1979 Broadway premiere of Sondheim’s musical, nevertheless. In actual fact, it started in literary kind in 1846 in a penny dreadful serial titled “The String of Pearls: A Home Romance.”
“The String of Pearls” Synopsis
That authentic story painted Sweeney Todd as an unmitigated villain who killed his victims by pulling a lever on his barber chair that despatched them crashing down a chute into the basement the place, hopefully, their necks would break. When he wasn’t so fortunate, he would descend the steps and slit their throats along with his razor.
As soon as dispatched, he would cart the our bodies by means of an underground tunnel to Mrs. Lovett’s Meat Pie store the place she’d bake them as much as promote to the general public.
Issues go awry for Mr. Todd after a sailor named Thornhill, final seen coming into the store, goes lacking. Thornhill had been meant to ship a string of pearls to a girl named Johanna. It was a present from, Mark, a person she liked who was presumed misplaced at sea.
Suspicious of Todd’s involvement in Thornhill’s disappearance, Johanna attire up like a boy and goes to work for his store after his former assistant Tobias Ragg is locked away in an asylum upon accusing the barber of being a assassin.
Finally, Todd is uncovered because the villain he’s when huge piles of physique components are found below the close by church that can be linked to the barber’s store by underground tunnels. Moreover, it’s found that Johanna’s lengthy misplaced Mark has been imprisoned for ages by Mr. Todd and compelled to prepare dinner the meat pies for Mrs. Lovett’s store.
Mark manages to flee and enters the pie store, saying to the shoppers that they’re really consuming individuals. I’ve usually puzzled if Soylent Inexperienced doesn’t owe just a bit little bit of it’s success to outdated Sweeney.
Within the fallout that comes after his publicity, Todd poisons Mrs. Lovett and is finally captured and hanged for his crimes.
Nope, we’re not even near Mr. Sondheim but!
The story of Sweeney Todd and “The String of Pearls” was so in style that it was tailored for the stage earlier than the unique story’s ending was even revealed in serial kind, and shortly everybody was doing their very own model of the story from the grand guignol theaters of Europe to America and again to London for newer variations making Sweeney Todd a family title in Victorian England.
After which, in 1970, playwright Christopher Bond took the story and gave it his personal spin.
In Bond’s model of the story, Sweeney Todd turned a barely extra sympathetic character. He wasn’t a killer from the beginning. As a substitute, he was a barber whose lovely spouse turned the item of obsession for an evil decide who raped the girl after which had Todd transported to Australia on trumped up fees.
Upon his return to London, he begins his bid for revenge, falling in with Mrs. Lovett and hatching a plot to spice up her pie gross sales whereas in search of an finish to the evil decide’s life.
It was in 1973 that Stephen Sondheim noticed a manufacturing of Bond’s play. It planted the seeds for his personal adaptation which has turn into, by far, probably the most well-known model of the story within the final 4 a long time.
Singing Sweeney Todd
Sondheim took the fabric to his long-time collaborator Harold Prince and although the director was reticent at first, he was quickly received over by Sondheim’s scoring concepts merged along with his personal concepts of constructing a press release about life within the Industrial Revolution–Prince’s units would finally come to feel and look like an outdated iron foundry with movable set items that actors might flip all through to set completely different scenes.
Although it took a little bit of convincing on his half, Sondheim discovered his main woman for the comically villainous Mrs. Lovett in Angela Lansbury and for the titular function, he introduced in actor Len Cariou.
Additional, Sondheim turned the smaller roles and extras within the refrain into an precise Greek Refrain who would come onto the stage en masse to relate sure passages by means of music, lending an nearly operatic really feel to the present.
On opening evening, audiences have been in shock on the story of bloodshed, cannibalism, and revenge, and although reception by critics was considerably lukewarm, it will go on to run for 557 performances on Broadway earlier than it set out on tour with Lansbury nonetheless connected to the function of Lovett.
Cariou was changed by George Hearn for the tour, and within the closing leg of Sweeney Todd on the highway, the manufacturing was filmed for broadcast on tv. You possibly can nonetheless buy that manufacturing on DVD, and I can’t let you know how a lot I like to recommend it.
Since its preliminary run on the Uris Theater in New York, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Road has been carried out everywhere in the world and has seen quite a few revivals on Broadway and in London’s West Finish.
For my part, Sweeney Todd comprises among the composer and lyricist’s finest work. The darkly hilarious “A Little Priest” and “By the Sea” completely offset hovering ballads and extra severe items like “Johanna” and “Epiphany.”
Sweeney on Display
After all, finally Hollywood got here to name upon Sondheim, and in 2007 Tim Burton’s gritty adaptation of the present hit the silver display screen.
Now don’t come after me, however of all of the model of this present that I’ve seen, Burton’s is by far the weakest. They merely needed to lower too many issues within the adaptation and so they went with “title” expertise over actual singing actors. Whereas I admire a lot of what they did within the movie model of the story, you’ve probably not seen this present till you’ve seen it in its entirety and by actors who’re extra completed vocalists than Depp and Bonham-Carter.
The movie model of the musical was hardly the primary display screen adaptation of the story of Sweeney Todd, nevertheless. For that, it’s important to go all the way in which again to 1926. Sadly the movie, which was directed by George Dewhurst and starred G.A. Baughan within the title function, has been misplaced.
The story was tailored for the display screen once more in 1928 and once more in 1936, this time with George King directing. King’s model was really chosen as one of many first 200 movies to be broadcast on tv and was first seen on WNBT Channel 1 out of New York Metropolis.
It has since been tailored by the BBC greater than as soon as, and has captured audiences every time.
However why Sweeney?
So why is it that this story has so captured the creativeness of authors, playwrights, and filmmakers? What’s it within the story of Sweeney Todd that pulls audiences to it time and again?
After all, there may be the lurid nature of the story. Homicide most foul and the surprising twist of feeding human flesh to surprising store patrons is a sensational concept!
However is that every one? It’s definitely a part of the rationale why I like it, and I’ve usually puzzled what I might do if I discovered that I’d unintentionally taken half in cannibalism. After all, I’m a bit bizarre so possibly solely I’ve these ideas.
Whereas I’m positive teachers might and would provide you with a bunch of causes, I believe it comes right down to primary human nature.
Sweeney Todd could possibly be anyone. He could possibly be your neighborhood barber and even worse your neighbor.
There may be each a repulsion and a slight thrill innate in human beings once they discover them linked to such circumstances. One solely has to learn or watch the information after a heinous assassin or serial killer is captured to see it. Pals, neighbors, and acquaintances line up for interviews to speak about how they by no means would have suspected the killer of doing such horrible issues.
Regardless of the a part of our mind is that drives human to relish that contact with such horrifying circumstances, I might lay cash on it being the identical half that has stored the story of Sweeney Todd alive.
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Waylon Jordan is a lifelong fan of style fiction and movie particularly these with a supernatural factor. He firmly believes that horror displays collective fears of society and can be utilized as a software for social change.