That's Entertainment -- October 1997
A look at the latest theatrical films, home videos and books, by Harry Haun
TODD MAN OUT (AND IN)
The next Sweeney Todd you see won't be Sondheim's -- or even sung. John Schlesinger, the Oscar-winning helmsman of Midnight Cowboy, has opted instead for a straight thriller version of the nefarious activities of The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. In the title role, a long way from his Oscar-winning Gandhi, is Ben Kingsley, who, ironically, had been Sondheim's first choice to do HIS version! . . . At the top of her "wish list" at the end of the day -- and at the end of the biography just published by Birch Lane (Julie Andrews: A Life on Stage and Screen) -- the former Victor/Victoria says she's up for new Broadway challenges, preferably creating "an original role in a Sondheim musical." And, if they ever do get around to filming Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, Andrews thinks it would be "delicious" to do Angela Lansbury's Tony-winning role of Mrs. Lovett. Indeed, she says, there has actually been "discussion" of her doing just that. Bizarre notion, that -- but can a spoonful of sugar help the meat pie go down? . . . Another theatre star, Tommy Tune, has just released his autobiography. In Footnotes: A Memoir, the over-six-foot Texan amusingly reflects on his life and career as a Tony-winning dancer/choreographer/ director available from Simon & Schuster. . . .A Tony winner whose time has come cinematically is The Phantom of the Opera, which just rang up its 4,000th Broadway performance. Andrew Lloyd Webber and his lyricist, Don Black, are already three songs deep into the sequel, slugged glibly Phantom II for the time being; it should be reaching Broadway in two years, timed to the release of the movie version of the first Phantom; rumor has it that John Travolta will be following Lon Chaney, Claude Rains and Broadway's Tony-winning Michael Crawford into the title role. When Travolta swapped his supporting Broadway role in Grease for the star part of Danny Zuko in the movie version, he made Grease the top grosser of its time.
PASSION, WELL SPENT
There was no movie sale for Stephen Sondheim's Passion despite its Tony triumphs, but you'd never know from the artfully taped edition that aired on PBS's "Great Performances" series and has just reached video stores via Image Entertainment. Writer/director James Lapine and Sondheim put a lot of TLC to say nothing of their own money! -- into this to assure that there'd be some historical record of the show, starring the original Broadway cast: Tony nominees Jere Shea, Marin Mazzie and Tom Aldredge. The show's Tony-winning performance -- Donna Murphy's love-obsessed Fosca -- got real resonance (if not its raison d'etre) from an 11th-hour Sondheim postscript: "Loving you is not a choice/It's who I am." Like Company's "Being Alive" and A Little Night Music's "Send in the Clowns," it was one of the last pieces to fall into place, and it immediately calmed a previously chaotic work-in-tryout.