[MA-SOC] OT: Sweeney Todd movie

Oneirophile at aol.com Oneirophile at aol.com
Wed May 23 20:31:34 EDT 2007

Hey there Disa-chan!
I'm delighted to hear that at least one other MA'er will be running to see  
this one.
I like the way you summarized the themes of SWEENEY TODD as "innocence  lost" 
and "potential squandered".  To those I would add, "the perils of  
vengeance".  With the possible exceptions of CABARET and CHICAGO, no other  major 
musical has done more to shatter the standard Broadway cliché of  sweetness, light, 
and the universal happy ending.  No spoilers here, but  the dark irony of what 
ultimately happens -- and what *almost* happens -- to  certain major 
characters in SWEENEY TODD is frightening in the  extreme.
You're right, at first it would seem that Johnny Depp is a bit too  young for 
the role of Benjamin Barker / Sweeney Todd, whose daughter Johanna is  
supposed to be about 17 years of age.  But then one realizes that, though  he 
doesn't look it, Johnny's pushing 44 himself.  And considering  his demonstrated 
versatility -- compare his diverse roles in EDWARD  SCISSORHANDS, ED WOOD, BLOW, 
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, etc. -- with a little  makeup and a lot of natural 
talent, Johnny could be entirely convincing as a  wild-eyed, slightly scruffy, 
disturbingly sympathetic middle-aged homicidal  maniac.
My personal reservation would be regarding his musical numbers.   I haven't 
yet seen the remake of CHOCOLATE FACTORY (being fiercely partial to  the Gene 
Wilder version), so I don't know if Johnny sang in that one, and  therefore I 
have no idea if he'd need a "voice double" for the role.   Remember, the role 
of Benjamin Barker / Sweeney Todd is arguably one of the most  demanding 
Broadway musical leads  -- requiring a fiery intensity of  personality combined with 
a bravura operatic voice that spans both the  baritone and tenor range.  
Johnny's got intensity up the gazoo, but does he  have the singing voice?
I've seen SWEENEY TODD three times onstage:  Once on Broadway with Len  
Cariou, once more on Broadway with George Hearn, and once at the NY City Center  
with a cast of extremely talented unknowns.  Although all three productions  
were brilliant, the one with Len Cariou remains my favorite.  As far as I'm  
concerned, no one but Len could deliver the razor-wielding show-stopper "These  
Are My Friends" with a comparable level of vocal and emotional pyrotechnics....  
the sort of performance that makes the little hairs on the back of your neck  
stand on end, and your lips mouth the words "Oh.... my.... God!".
IMHO, that's the only problem with casting Johnny in the title role.   Those 
who have seen SWEENEY TODD onstage -- particularly the Len Cariou  version -- 
will inevitably have that production in the back of their minds, and  will 
naturally make a mental comparison.  Johnny can certainly live up  to Len's 
dramatic performance, but it might be wise to have someone else (Josh  Groban, 
perhaps?) fill in his singing parts.
I've heard of Helena Bonham Carter, but am not that familiar with her work  
on film.  I know she voiced one of the leads in CORPSE BRIDE, and will be  
playing the villainous Bellatrix in the upcoming HARRY POTTER & THE ORDER OF  THE 
PHOENIX.  (Can't wait for that one either!)  Of course, Angela  Lansbury is an 
incredibly tough act to follow -- as is Patti Lupone, who I  understand 
played Mrs. Lovett in a recent stage revival of SWEENEY TODD.   From her photos, 
HBC appears to be a very beautiful woman, which means they will  have to do an 
even more extensive makeup job on her than on Johnny.
As for my beloved Alan.... *sigh*.... well, what can I say?  Heck, I'd  
gladly shell out for front-row seats to see him doing a dramatic reading from  the 
London telephone directory.  Personally, I think he'll be great in the  role 
of Judge Turpin.  I agree that he's been typecast as a villain far too  many 
times.... but that's because, let's face it, he does it so  damn well!  The 
difference is that he usually plays a *sexy*  villain -- e.g., the Sheriff of 
Nottingham, Hans Gruber, Rasputin, Severus Snape  (technically not a true villain, 
but....) -- whereas Judge Turpin is anything  but sexy.  It will be 
interesting to see how Alan plays a truly *repulsive*  bad guy.
Vocally, he is suited for the role as well.  Of course,  Alan's speaking 
voice is one of his most notable features....  mesmerizing, mellifluous, 
exquisitely seductive, pure hot chocolate.  But  his singing voice ain't bad either.  
Check out TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY, a  delightfully touching little 1991 
fantasy-comedy-romance.... especially if  you'd like to see Alan cast (for a refreshing 
change) as an  irresistibly sweet, gentle, romantic leading man.  One of the 
most  joyous moments in TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY -- which also happens to be one of 
 the most joyous musical numbers in *any* film -- is his rendition of  "The 
Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" as an ecstatic duet with co-star Juliet  
Stevenson.  While Alan's singing voice may not be operatic or even trained,  he can 
keep a tune, deliver it with warmth and passion, and make you  believe that 
there's nothing he would rather do at that moment than sing.   So I look forward 
to seeing Alan in SWEENEY TODD, and especially to hearing him  deliver songs 
such as the "Pretty Women" duet, and that chilling  self-flagellation solo 
which was censored out of the original Broadway  stage production (though AFAIK 
retained on the original Broadway cast  recording).
One more reason to see the SWEENEY TODD film:  Apparently, the role of  rival 
barber and snake-oil salesman Adolfo Pirelli has gone to none other  than 
"Borat" himself, Sacha Baron Cohen.... a perfect choice!
PS:  Wish I'd seen that college production you describe.... ^_^
~ The Jillster ~
(hopeless pushover for blond, ponytailed mad scientists with panache)
+ + + + + + +  + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
("Bidden or not bidden, God is present")
+ + + + + + + + + + + + +  + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

In a message dated 5/21/2007 10:58:43 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
mandisaw at earthlink.net writes:

Y'know,  actor's ages are a weird thing. My first reaction to this was that 
Johnny Depp  & Helena Bonham Carter aren't old enough to play the leads in 
Sweeney  Todd. A main theme of the storyline is "innocence lost" and "potential  
squandered", and in my mind, at least, Depp & Bonham-Carter still *seem*  
young, innocent and full of potential. 

In fact though, they're both in  their early 40's, which is a realistic age 
for each role, especially with  surrealistic, aged hair & makeup. And of 
course, Alan Rickman as Judge  Turpin is excellent casting, although it does peg him 
as the unabashed villain  once more. Also, I always envision the Judge as 
unhealthy and unappealing in  visage, but Rickman is still quite nice-looking. 

'Course, I have a  strong memory of seeing one of my college's drama troupes 
performing "Sweeney  Todd", and they did a great job in their late teens and 
early 20's. Especially  considering the lead actor sported a long mane of 
powdered blond hair in a  ponytail, and played Todd with extra flourish like a mad 
scientist from some  40's SF classic.

Looks like another reason to be a happy movie-fangirl  this  year.


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