Sweeney Todd


About 10 years ago, Elquin introduced me to “Sweeney Todd”, tonight we watched it again – and it’s easily one of my favorite musicals.. here’s my take (spoilers, duh)

Oh, did you think I meant the Tim Burton film? Naw, I’m talking about the 1982 musical play starting Angela Lansbury (as Mrs Lovett) and George Hearn (as Sweeney Todd)

Benjamin Barker alias Sweeney Todd, returns to London after being deported to find out what happened to his wife and child at the hands of Judge Turpin. When he learns of their terrible fate he joins fortunes with Mrs. Nellie Lovett, the baker downstairs from his barbershop, and sets out to seek revenge. Written by Kathy Li

Now, dont get me wrong, the Film starring Johnny Depp and Helena Carter was good, but lacking in passion.

I love a unhappy ending, and this story is right up there with Se7en. It can only be compared to a Greek Tragedy. You want Sweeney to win so badly, but in his (successful) quest for vengeance, he looses it all.

Comparing the play to the movie..

  1. Missing Songs
    • For reasons of time restraints, the movie is missing a lot of music and story telling songs. Most notably “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” (see video, above).
  2. The Better Lovett
    • I have to admit that Helena Carter did a better job at Mrs Lovett. Angela Lansbury was a little too manic in the role, and didn’t sing as well.
  3. The Better Sweeney
    • Although Depp may be more adapt for Film roles, I feel that his “Sad and Emo” portrayal was not right for the part. Hearn was pissed.. and I mean passionately murderous..
  4. The Better Tobey
    • All and all, I feel that Ed Sanders did a better job, in the film version. How can you honestly compare a 14 year old to a 35 year old, playing a child? Sorry, but the kid gets it.
  5. The Better Perelli
    • I can’t decide on this one. In both versions, the actors were great. I was honestly surprised by how good Sasha Cohen was in the Tim Burton version. I had only really known him from the craptacular comedies, like “Borat, Bruno, The Dictator and Ali-G”
  6. The Lovers
    • In the musical, all points of the story are given equal time and character development.
    • In the movie. I feel the love story between Antony and Joanna are an afterthought, yet a necessary cog for the main plot.
  7. The Villains
    • You simply can not deny the evil chemistry of Alan Rickman (Judge Turpin) and Timothy Spall (The Beadle) – you may remember them as Snape and Wormtail from the Harry Potter movies.

The Real Sweeney??

There was urban legend that Sweeney Todd was a real person, but the truth of the matter is that, the story was first published in 1847 under the title “A String of Pearls”, and was quite possibly based off a short story titled “Pickwick Papers” by Charles Dickens in 1846. Alas, there is no actual proof that Todd existed, or that even a similar killer cooked their victims into pies. Sorry.

So, which version to see?  Up to you.. I have both the musical and the movie, and we enjoy them both.

Author: Jethal