20 August 2011 @ 04:38 pm
Review: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1982 First National Tour Cast Video)
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
DVD Info: Cast Albums
Buy: Barnes & Noble|Amazon (Reissue)

More information about the show is here. Despite this video being first presented to the public on The Entertainment Channel on September 12, 1982, this was actually recorded in 1981 around July/August.


Sweeney Todd - George Hearn
Mrs. Lovett - Angela Lansbury
Tobias - Ken Jennings
Anthony - Cris Groenendaal
Johanna - Betsy Joslyn
Judge Turpin - Edmund Lyndeck
Beggar Woman - Sara Woods
Beadle - Calvin Remsberg
Pirelli - Sal Mistretta

This is a very good addition to your DVD library if you don't already own it. The cast is phenomenal, save for a few minor ones (more on that later), and above all, it's the original Broadway staging (all thanks to Harold Prince). I'm really glad that is cast was preserved for posterity for many generations of Theatre fans to come. Even if you don't like Theatre, you can still enjoy this.

I loved this video for quite some time. I've finally saw it again on August 12th and remembered why I enjoyed it so much: the cast is great though there are some shortcomings with some, plus the score is amazing (though why were the tempos lowered on some songs? I don't know...). This version is the Broadway version without "Johanna (Judge's Song): Mea Culpa", the "Tooth Pulling Sequence" from "The Contest" and "Parlor Songs".

Now to the cast. George Hearn's Sweeney is *phenomenal* beyond words. He plays the mad barber all too well and quite different from Len Cariou from the Broadway Cast recording. I can't really compare the two as they're both perfect in their own ways. George is just like a spark of lightning that sets ablaze on the Fourth of July that is frantic with energy that works well with Sweeney. It's not an easy role to play. Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett is a delightful treat. Please clear your mind of Mame. Please clear your mind of Miss Eglantine Price. Please clear your mind of Jessica Fletcher. Please clear your mind of Mrs. Potts. I'm warning you guys on this because if you have your mindset of these characters as a woman who makes mincemeat pies out of people, then you're going to be terrified for weeks *chuckles*. All jokes aside, Angela's Lovett is brilliantly played.

Cris Groenendaal's Anthony is really good as he is a "Phantom" alumnus but I'm not quite fond of the character and the same goes for Johanna since they're kinda blah to me. Speaking of Johanna, Betsy Joslyn is a really talented actress and singer but in this role, I don't know what she was doing to be shrill. It's that shrill that sounds as if Shelley Duvall (Olive Oyl from the 1980 Disney/Paramount film "Popeye") is portraying Johanna. She also makes this weird face expressions that even matched Cris' as well. It's too over the top comic relief and though it can be annoying to some, I think it works in a show that has a dark and gory subject matter. "Kiss Me" is hilarious to watch. Edmund Lyndeck as Judge Turpin is so sinister and slimy that it actually works for such a vile character (thank goodness his "Johanna" was cut in previews and transferred via the original Broadway staging and this tour. I would have felt uncomfortable during that number). Ken Jennings is a very great Tobias and his duet with Lansbury on "Not While I'm Around" is great.

Despite some shortcomings, I think this was a well-staged and brilliantly performed production. Let me repeat what I said earlier: this is a very good addition to your DVD library if you don't already own it. Highly recommended.