Odd, yes, definitely, but I LOVED the experience of seeing this show. The new Sweeney Todd on Broadway is just getting underway in previews, and I was fortunate enough to be in Manhattan to see it! Obviously, I was most excited to see the incomparable Patti LuPone playing one of her signature roles. And even though I KNEW that this would be an avant garde, revisionist interpretation of Sweeney, that knowledge could in NO way prepare me for the actual event.
The setting is an asylum, possibly Fogg's Asylum from the traditional Sweeney. A cast of ten are onstage for duration of the performance, acting their roles, singing their songs, and (as if that weren't enough) playing their instruments. Yes, Toby plays a violin, Anthony & Johanna play celli (so erotic!), Mrs. Lovett plays various percussion and tuba (laughs ensue), and Sweeney himself finds time to strum the guitar. There is no pit orchestra, only the ten people onstage.
While this production is certain to be controversial--loved by some, hated by more--I am still in SHOCK at the amazing talent of these actors. They not only memorized their lines and their songs (all performed beautifully) but also their instruments' score. For the ENTIRE SHOW. And the music was virtually continuous -- one number blended seamlessly into the next, effectively keeping the audience from applauding until the end of each act. (Has this director possibly studied ritual theory?)
Sweeney Todd officially opens on November 3. What will critics think? What do fans think? I hope that Sondheim worshipers (like me) will give it a chance. It's more creepy, stark, shocking, exciting, bloody, visceral than any traditional Sweeney production. It needs to be experienced.
Since returning to Denver, I've had a ton of fun surfing the blogosphere to see what people think of this new Sweeney. Zawadi Bill and The Playgoer both have superbly written reviews of the show (even though Bill hates Michael Cerveris' Sweeney, and errantly believes Patti has a FALSETTO) and are both much better writers than I will ever be. Highly recommended. Also, be sure to read bookslibretti's experience of waiting outside the stage door to meet Patti LuPone.