Try the Priest

Tim Burton made my favorite Broadway musical (Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street) into a movie. It’s out today. Now, I love Tim Burton’s movies. I just don’t know how I feel about him at the head of my favorite musical. Look at the messes Hollywood made of Phantom of the Opera and Evita. And the Sweeney Todd movie…stars Johnny Depp. Dear God, Johnny Depp. Why Johnny Depp? The part of Sweeney is supposed to be played by an older baritone. Johnny Depp can still play a twenty-something.

I heartily approve of the casting of Judge Turpin, though. I dearly love Alan Rickman.

The main plot in the stage production: It’s about a man (Sweeney Todd) sent to a penal colony because a powerful judge wanted his wife. The play begins when he returns home to London to be reunited with his wife and child; he finds that his wife drank poison and his daughter is now the ‘ward’ of the judge. The play is about his plan to kill the judge and get his daughter back. He does this by opening a barber shop (above a meat pie shop that sells the worst meat pies in London). There he kills all his wealthy clients because he’s nuts and maybe the judge will show up at his shop.

So, what to do with the bodies once Sweeney slits their throats? The owner of the meat pie shop has a solution. (Because cats are just too fast for her. And yes, it’s what you’re thinking.) Is it a coincidence that the meat pie shop then begins to have a rep as selling the best meat pies in London? I think not. So, try the priest and go see Sweeney Todd. I’m going to go see it soon. More about it then.

I’ve heard they’ve cut a great deal of the play from the movie. One of the songs cut is the narrative. So here it is, from Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Sondheim:

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.
His skin was pale and his eye was odd.
He shaved the faces of gentlemen
Who never thereafter were heard of again.
He trod a path that few have trod,
Did Sweeney Todd,
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

He kept a shop in London town
Of fancy clients and good renown.
And what if none of their souls was saved?
They went to their maker impeccably shaved
By Sweeney,
By Sweeney Todd.
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Swing your razor wide, Sweeney!
Hold it to the skies!
Freely flows the blood of those
Who moralize!

His needs were few, his room was bare.
A lavabo and a fancy chair.
A mug of suds and a leather strop,
An apron, a towel, a pail, and a mop.
For neatness he deserved a nod,
Did Sweeney Todd,
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Inconspicuous Sweeney was,
Quick and quiet and clean ‘e was.
Back of his smile, under his word,
Sweeney heard music that nobody heard.

Sweeney pondered and Sweeney planned
Like a perfect machine ‘e planned.
Sweeney was smooth, Sweeney was subtle,
Sweeney would blink and rats would scuttle.

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.
He served a dark and a vengeful god.
What happened then – well that’s the play,
And he wouldn’t want us to give it away,
Not Sweeney.
Not Sweeney Todd,
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street!

I can’t wait.