Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday With Sweeney Todd

Ah, Easter. Just the word makes one think of cute bunnies ... blossoming lillies ... brightly-colored easter eggs ... and a deranged barber who kills his customers so his accomplice can grind the dead bodies into meat for her pie shop? I don't know about you, but that's what we saw when we caught the Easter Sunday matinee of Sweeney Todd.

We spent Easter Sunday seeing Sweeney Todd. (03/23/2008)
We spent Easter Sunday seeing Sweeney Todd. (03/23/2008)

The version we saw was the U.S. national tour of the John Doyle-directed revival that opened in New York in 2005 starring Michael Cerveris and the imcoporable Patti LuPone. You may remember that this production famously abandoned the traditional orchestra and instead relied on the 10-person cast to play all the instruments.

The show was at the Ahmanson at L.A.'s Music Center. (03/23/2008)
The show was at the Ahmanson at L.A.'s Music Center. (03/23/2008)

I was very excited to see this production, having heard so many good things about it. Plus, having seen a "traditional" production of Sweeney Todd, I was very curious to see how a 10-person cast could pull off the complexities of this show, score and all.

Now that I've seen this production of Sweeney Todd, I can honestly say I have mixed feelings. You couldn't deny the absolute talent of the cast, led by David Hess and Judy Kaye in the lead roles. The ability to play their parts, as well as play the instruments was amazing. And the staging and direction was incredible — it was so different from the original staging.

We saw the show with Jarrod and Jason, who's behind Tim. (03/23/2008)
We saw the show with Jarrod and Jason, who's behind Tim. (03/23/2008)

But there was one major component lacking: The incredible orchestrations of Paul Gemignani. A longtime collaborator with Stephen Sondheim, Gemignani was responsible for creating one of the richest, fullest and loudest scores ever to grace a Broadway stage. So important was Gemignani's contribution to the musical that Tim Burton hired him to orchestrate his 2007 film adaptation of Sweeney Todd, which also had incredible orchestrations.

"One Helluva Show!" (03/23/2008)
"One Helluva Show!" (03/23/2008)

There are so many great moments to the original score, like the introductory theme that's played right before Mrs. Lovett's opening number. And in this minimally-orchestrated version, the excitement was somewhat lacking. It really bums me out that I didn't love this production unconditionally, because I really wanted to. But alas, I really missed the lush strings and tight brass section.

However, I am glad that I did see this production once.

1 comment:

beastandbean said...

Man, I'm so jealous...I totally wanted to see this production when it was in town, but missed it. Glad to hear we didn't miss much...but still...sounds kind of cool.

Since you're a bigger "Sweeney" fan than I thou, glad you got to see it instead! Go, Mrs. Lovett!