I thought the Live from Lincoln Center production of Sweeney Todd was quite good. I do think the show is served better than many shows with a full production, rather than concert staging, since it helps enforce the imposing sensibility, particularly with the barber chair, the bodies sliding to the basement and the furnace. But they did a very good job under the condition. (I particularly loved how they had Bryn Terfel as Sweeney slam down his script during the opening, and then glaring at the others as a challenge that they do the same, which they did.)
I think Terfel was wonderful. As I mentioned, I'd seen him do the role previously with the Chicago Lyric Opera, and it was clear how well-versed he was with the show. And Emma Thompson was terrific, returning to her stage musical roots. She sang very well, though notably better in the lower register. But it confirmed what I wrote before how the role calls more for a comic actress than a great singer. Her interpretation of the role was more grounded than crazed, which is hope Angela Lansbury did it in the original. I think I prefer the latter, it's less realistic but more believable. But again, Emma Thompson was wonderful. (I've also seen Patti Lupone do the show at the Ravinia Music Festival, with George Hearn starring as Sweeney, the role he replaced on Broadway. That production at Ravinia was semi-staged.)
My only complaint has nothing to do with the show itself. It's the pre-introduction with Kristin Chenoweth. (They did a full introduction of the show after, with Audra MacDonald.) At the end of Ms. Chenoweth's comments, she welcomed us to watch Sweeney Todd and then added with enthusiasm, "starring Oscar-winner Emma Thompson!" and that was it. Period. The end. No mention of...er, Bryn Terfel. The man who plays the freaking title role. Sweeney Todd. That's the show's name, y'know, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." And the first words sung are, "Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd." That guy. Sweeney Todd.
You can't miss him. He's the one with the knife. Killing everyone. On stage most of the time.
I'm not sure who's to blame for it. I don't know if someone wrote Kristen Chenoweth's comments. I don't know if she wrote her own words. I don't know what the director was listening to, and what the producer thinking. But if someone wrote it, they're at fault for an egregious oversight that can't be blamed on an oversight because it would have been prepared in advance. And she's at fault, as an actress, for knowing very well about credit and who's starring and what the name of the show is. And the director is at fault for letting this go through. And the producer is at fault for putting it on the air, uncorrected.
It was so oddly egregious that I couldn't believe that they actually left his name out. So, afterwards, I went back to the very start, since I had recorded the broadcast. And it's just not there. Watch Sweeney Todd starring Oscar-winner Emma Thompson.
Really, you don't want to piss Sweeney Todd off...
If you missed it, here's the entire thing. The full production and even Audra MacDonald's introduction. Everything. Except, happily, Kristen Chenoweth's pre-amble.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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