A concert version of one the bloodiest and most original American musicals, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, comes to your living room Halloween night via PBS, which captured Patti LuPone and George Hearn with the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus.
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 recreate those performances in the 9 PM (ET) broadcast, with a slightly different supporting cast and a West Coast orchestra. Check local listings for time and channel in your area.
"Sweeney Todd in Concert" features 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 conducts. Lonny Price directs, 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.
"Sweeney Todd in Concert" is a co-production of KQED San Francisco and Ellen Krass Productions. For more information, including historical information, and recipes for meat pies, go to www.pbs.org/kqed/demonbarber.
Image Entertainment will be releasing the DVD and videocassette versions of this program in the late spring of 2002.