Attend the Tale: Sondheim Musical "Sweeney Todd" Hits Big Screen Dec. 21

Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's musical take on the story of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" makes its motion picture debut Dec. 21 at the hands of macabre film director Tim Burton and his frequent star Johnny Depp.

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in
Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in "Sweeney Todd." (Photo by Leah Gallo)

John Logan ("The Aviator," "Gladiator," Never the Sinner) penned the DreamWorks/Warner Bros. film adaptation, which hits movie theatres nationwide the Friday before Christmas.

Burton has cast performers not necessarily known for their singing voices, but their acting chops. Depp — who previously teamed with the director on "Edward Scissorhands," "Ed Wood," "Sleepy Hollow," "Corpse Bride" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" — takes on the title role of a "man unjustly sent to prison who vows revenge, not only for that cruel punishment, but for the devastating consequences of what happened to his wife and daughter," as a film synopsis explains.

Helena Bonham Carter (seen in Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Big Fish," "Planet of the Apes" and in voice on "Corpse Bride") plays lovelorn piemaker Mrs. Lovett. Also featured are Alan Rickman ( Private Lives, the "Harry Potter" films) playing the nefarious Judge Turpin, Timothy Spall (" Harry Potter") as his conspiring associate Beadle Bamford and Sacha Baron Cohen ("Borat," "Talladega Nights") as rival barber Signor Adolfo Pirelli.

Rounding out the cast are Laura Michelle Kelly ( Fiddler on the Roof) as the Beggar Woman, Jamie Campbell Bowen as Anthony, Jayne Wisener as Johanna and newcomer Edward Sanders as Toby.

Much of Sondheim's score made the final cut of the film, including "Opening Title" "No Place Like London," "The Worst Pies in London," "Poor Thing," "My Friends," "Green Finch & Linnett Bird," "Alms Alms," "Johanna," "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir," "The Contest," "God, That s Good!," "By the Sea," "Not While I'm Around" and "Final Scene." Nonesuch Records released a deluxe and highlights edition of the soundtrack Dec. 18. Titan Books provided the companion book for the film, which includes interviews, extracts from the shooting script, photos, concept drawing and production designs.

The production team includes Tony Award winners Jonathan Tunick (orchestrator) and Paul Gemignani (musical supervisor). Richard D. Zanuck, Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and John Logan produce the project, which filmed at London's Pinewood Studios.

Even before the official release, the film has been garnering acclaim. It was among the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures' Top Ten Films, Time's Top 10 Movies of 2007 and was nominated for Critics' Choice Awards (Best Picture, Acting Ensemble, Actor - Johnny Depp, Director and Young Actor - Edward Sanders) and Golden Globes (Picture, Director, Actor - Depp, Actress - Helena Bonham Carter).

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Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall) moderates a shaving competition between rival barbers Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) and Adolfo Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen).
Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall) moderates a shaving competition between rival barbers Sweeney Todd ( Johnny Depp) and Adolfo Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen). (Photo by Leah Gallo)