Though at this point in time I should probably be rehearsing Pachelbel’s “Canon in D major” for a wedding I’m playing tomorrow morning, I had to take a break from the keys for a little while to clear my head. There was simply no escaping those chord progressions (it is the same set of chords repeated in variations for 8 pages). I figure if I know the chords, if I start to zone somewhere in the middle, I can just vamp the same chords and improvise a little. Johann is dead, what’s he going to care? (And from the bridal consultation I had, this girl won’t know the difference. I doubt there have been many brides that have asked ” ‘Here Comes the Bride?’ How does that one go?” I kid you not).
But I digress. I felt it more urgent to express how utterly elated I am at the new theatrical trailer for Sweeney Todd. The first time I saw this, was the 1982 taping starring Angela Lansbury and George Hearn, preserved while the national tour was stopped in LA. While certain things about that taping are on the awkward side (well, mostly Betsy Joslyn’s “Green Finch and Linnet Bird”), I knew I was seeing something extraordinary the first time I witnessed “A Little Priest.” I remember I rewound and rewound the video on that sequence about 20 times that night pushing it so late, that I had to watch the second act the following day. Ever since, I’ve been an ardent admirer of the piece (and “A Little Priest” remains my favorite Sondheim song).
I’ve already read that Sondheim likes it, but warns that it’s its own animal. Clocking in at an apparent 105 minutes, I’m not surprised. (And given the innovations of the recent revival, it’s a piece open for lots of artistic freedom and interpretation). I hear a lot of it is sung, about 70% apparently. There’s just basically a lot of buzz that means nothing until the film is released and reviewed. With the first half sounding ominously like other just another Tim Burton film and not Sweeney Todd, I got a little worried. That’s not to knock Mr. Burton, as I adore Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and Big Fish, to name a few. It’s clear that the powers that be want to sell the movie before they sell the musical. Considering the amount of money at risk on a musical, one could see how they would try to showcase the Grand Guignol nature of the plot. But let’s face it, it’s a musical. With a lot of music. Finally halfway through there was some relief to see at least something by Sondheim in there, though not enough to my liking. Most especially, I would have liked to have heard a vocal sampling of Helena Bonham Carter‘s Mrs. Lovett.
Depp’s acting looks exemplary and if his singing lacks the gravitas of many of his predecessors in the role, he’s quite scary in the excerpt from “Epiphany.” (His understated gravelly delivery of many of the shows big lines gave me chills). The trailer manages to (efficiently) set-up the entire backstory sung onstage in “The Barber and His Wife.” Alan Rickman is perpetrates his usual villainy as the lecherous Judge Turpin; and also, how nice to see Mary Poppins herself, Laura Michelle Kelly as Mrs. Benjamin Barker.
One thing I noticed missing (and it makes we wonder if there will be a red band trailer to coincide) is any pointed reference to the cannibalistic nature that the Todd-Lovett meat-pie enterprise takes on towards the end of the first act. Though I smiled when they ended the trailer with Lovett’s “That’s all very well, but what are we going to do about him?” with the camera zooming in on the hand sticking out of the trunk.
BTW – Isn’t that a perfect tagline?