Sondheim x 2: Sweeney and "Sheila" Arrive in Stores April 20

News   Sondheim x 2: Sweeney and "Sheila" Arrive in Stores April 20
Two works by Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd and "The Last of Sheila," arrive on DVD April 20.

The 1982 television version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has been released on DVD by Warner Home Video. Co-starring Angela Lansbury and George Hearn, this version of Sweeney won three Emmy Awards and three Cable Ace Awards when it originally aired. Although the 139-minute recording does not include bonus features, the original video and audio masters have been restored and remixed, and the new DVD is presented in full-screen with Dolby 5.1 audio.

In a statement, Warner Home Video Senior Vice President George Feltenstein recently said, "It was the multiple camera work and direction in this TV version that created the ground-breaking sense of intimacy and fluid movement. The genius of Sondheim’s score, Harold Prince’s phenomenal stage direction, and the amazing performances of Angela Lansbury and George Hearn are beautifully preserved in this outstanding production. . . . While sadly, some original productions of [Sondheim's] other hits — like Company, Follies, and A Little Night Music — are lost to the memories of those lucky enough to have seen them, we’re fortunate that the producers of Sweeney Todd . . . had the foresight to preserve it for the ages. The WHV restoration from the original antiquated videotape masters makes Sweeney Todd . . . look and sound better than ever. Even people familiar with this production from earlier VHS and broadcast incarnations will be awed by the great improvement in picture and sound."

The Hollywood whodunit film "The Last of Sheila" is also now available from Warner Home Video. A collaboration of Sondheim and Anthony Perkins, the film was directed by Herbert Ross and starred James Coburn, James Mason, Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon and Richard Benjamin. The Warner DVD includes several special features: commentary by actors Benjamin, Cannon and Welch; the theatrical trailer; and subtitles in English, French and Spanish. The running time is 119 minutes.

Sweeney Todd originally premiered at Broadway's Uris Theatre on Feb. 6, 1979, with a cast led by Len Cariou (Sweeney) and Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Lovett), who both nabbed Tony Awards for their roles. Harold Prince directed the production, which was awarded the 1979 Tony for Best Musical. A 1989 revival at Circle in the Square Theatre featured Beauty and the Beast's Beth Fowler as Mrs. Lovett and former Evita star Bob Gunton as the man who returns to London to avenge the death of his wife.

One of the more recent major productions of the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler work, which is based on a version of "Sweeney Todd" by Christopher Bond, was the Kennedy Center mounting, which starred Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christine Baranski. A concert presentation of the musical, directed by Lonny Price and led by Tony winners George Hearn and Patti LuPone, confirmed the strength of Sondheim's score, which boasts such tunes as "The Worst Pies in London," "Johanna," "Pretty Women," "A Little Priest," "By the Sea" and "Not While I'm Around." West End stage star Elaine Paige also just completed a run as Mrs. Lovett opposite Mark Delavan's Sweeny for the New York City Opera. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has a list price of $24.98. "The Last of Sheila" sells for $19.97.

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