A televised concert version of Sweeney Todd that aired on PBS on Halloween night 2001 snagged a 2002 Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Classical Music-Dance Program, it was announced Sept. 14.
Some of the 54th Annual Emmy Awards, in the creative and technical fields, were announced Sept. 14, with additional and high-profile awards to be announced Sept. 22 in the "2002 Prime Time Emmy Awards" on NBC.
"Sweeney Todd in Concert" was taped in San Francisco in June 2001, and aired Halloween night 2001. It was executive produced by Chase Mishkin, co-executive produced by Ellen M. Krauss and Mort Swinsky, produced by Iris Merlis and Jeff Thorsen, and directed by Lonny Price.
The staging featured George Hearn and Patti LuPone, and the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus.
Image Entertainment released the DVD and videocassette versions of the concert earlier this year. *
Tony Award-winners LuPone and Hearn sang the roles of Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney in a famed May 2000 concert with the New York Philharmonic, and recreated those performances in the broadcast, with a slightly different supporting cast and a West Coast orchestra.
"Sweeney Todd in Concert" featured Lisa Vroman as Johanna, Davis Gaines and Anthony Hope, Neil Patrick Harris as Tobias and Victoria Clark as the Beggar Woman. This isn't the first time Hearn has appeared on TV in the musical by librettist Hugh Wheeler and composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim. He was the vengeful barber with Angela Lansbury in the Los Angeles first national tour production, which was videotaped and broadcast in 1982. The tape is treasured by fans. Hearn won an Emmy Award for his performance.
The musical is based on the 1973 play by Christopher Bond, which was inspired by the apparently true story of a murderous barber in London in the 1790s. The musical (re-set in industrial 19th-century London) concerns a venal judge who has his way with a young woman after he sends her husband, an innocent barber, off to prison in Australia. The judge takes the woman's daughter as his ward and plans to similarly molest her. The barber returns to London and, with the help of pie-maker Mrs. Lovett, seeks to punish the judge and all who come in their way. Need we say that Mrs. Lovett uses a very special ingredient in her meat pies?
Rob Fisher conducted. Lonny Price directed, as he did the New York Philharmonic concert (which is on CD). Also featured are John Aler, Stanford Olson and Timothy Nolen. This staged concert was presented in Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco in July 2001.
The original Broadway production opened at the Uris Theatre in 1979 and ran 557 performances. Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou starred. It won the Best Musical Tony Award.
"If I had to label Sweeney Todd, I would say it's an operetta, a black operetta, a dark operetta," Sondheim said at a press conference for the San Francisco concert. "I can't imagine how else you write Sweeney Todd except with a lot of music, because it's a thriller. I want a lot of music to be continuous because it is a horror movie. And the way movies scare you is through continuous music."
LuPone, of course, gained famed as Eva Peron in Evita and wowed Broadway audiences in Master Class and Anything Goes. She opens Nov. 1 in the Broadway revival of Noises Off. Hearn appeared in Broadway's Putting It Together and was a replacement Todd in the original staging on Broadway (he and Dorothy Loudon starred when it ended). He won his first Tony Award playing Albin in La Cage aux folles. He was Tony nommed for A Doll's Life and Watch on the Rhine. He played Max in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, snagging another Tony.
The PBS airing of "Sweeney Todd in Concert" was a co production of KQED San Francisco and Ellen Krass Productions.
— By Kenneth Jones