The Top 10 Songs by Stephen Sondheim

By Ben Rimalower
28 Sep 2013

3. "Not While I'm Around"

 

 

"Not While I'm Around" is so sweet and so seemingly simple, it's easy to forget its origins. When Toby sings to Mrs. Lovett of demons prowling everywhere nowadays, he means specifically today, like Sweeney Todd upstairs slitting people's throats. Indeed, his promise that, "nothing's gonna harm you, not while [he's] around," is in light of a very real danger that he may not be around, should he fall out of favor with Sweeney (which he indeed he does, although it's his own mettle that is proven when he kills Sweeney in the show's final moment). Sentiments like these might be tossed around tritely in countless other ballads, but the dire straits that inspire them in Sweeney Todd make for a song sweet and simple, yes, but also with great depth and integrity. That's why "Not While I'm Around" comes across not as syrupy and saccharine, but as real and felt.



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