Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dramatic Tragedies

You probably saw the piece in the T-D about Henley Street’s upcoming production of “The Spanish Tragedy.” I’ll be checking it out this Friday; it’ll be my first HSTC show and I’m giddy with anticipation.

I’ve heard some good and some bad about “Sweeney Todd” on the big screen. I’m having trouble getting motivated to see it because, after seeing Patti Lupone as Mrs. Lovett on Broadway, I can’t imagine Helena Bonham Carter doing the part justice. Based on the John Doyle production I saw, the prerequisite for any future Mrs. Lovett should be that she can convincingly play (or at least carry) a tuba.

I did see an equally devastating and uplifting tragedy over Christmas however, also based on theater. If you have the patience for subtitles and the occasional stilted performance, you should check out “Ran” by the Japanese director Kurosawa on DVD sometime. It’s an epic tragedy based loosely on “King Lear” and it is full of pageantry and awesome visuals. It was filmed before CGI so the scenes of legions of soldiers riding into battle actually involved thousands of extras and hundreds of horses. It’s pretty amazing.

I’ve also been canvassing the acting community out there in reference to an upcoming Style piece (not unlike Mary’s) so don’t be surprised if you hear me calling in the next couple of days. Beware!


Anonymous said...

I saw that production, too!! Boy, I did not care for it AT ALL. And Patti Lupone's diction was atrocious. The whole conceit of the cast playing instruments didn't seem to enhance the story, rather it made it difficult to follow and very bland IMO.

A friend with me, who had also never seen the show before, actually fell asleep. After the show, we watched a DVD of the production with Angela Landsbury, and we all said different versions of "Oh, I get it now!"

We actually had third row center seats which were amazing!! Just wish they had been for a different show! I heard "Company" worked much better with the same concept. Didn't get to see that one, though.

Anonymous said...

Helena Bonham Carter is terrific as Mrs. Lovett. Does she have an amazing singing voice? No. But she brings something new and different to the role, and certainly acts the hell out of it. It's a different medium for a different generation. But it's one of the most faithfully adapted screen versions of a musical in recent memory. Go see it - you'll enjoy it immensely.

Thespis' Little Helper said...

I thought John Doyle's production was one of the most brilliant moments I have ever witnessed in theatre (that and Spring Awakening)...guess I'm just all about challenging the status quo.

Patti Lupone's Mrs. Lovett was perfected hailed as the first to break the mold of Angela Lansbury's interpretation. Incredibly actress.

Someday I may blog about my funny story about auditioning for John Doyle when he was directing a production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale at my university (pre-two Tony Awards).

I went again to see that production when Patti Lupone was on vacation because I loved the production and wanted to see Judy Kaye do it (also amazing, especially when she was upstage right playing the xylophone with a look of what seemed to be abject terror that she might play the wrong note).

Helena Bonham Carter (for me) didn't do much. Most of the movie didn't do much. Johnny Depp I found to be surprisingly incredible. I was with him (as Sweeney) every step of the way. The rest (with the possible exception of Alan Rickman) didn't really do much for me.

Two probs...well...three...with Tim Burton's direction, but pretty stunning, especially all the blood...mwahahaha.

Worth seeing, for sure.

My two cents.

Happy Richard Nixon's Birthday (1913) to all!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to see it this weekend with Mark. He loves horror but hates musical theatre and I HATE movie horror and of course adore MT. I am secretly hoping that he comes out of the movie enlightened and ready to see Oklahoma! Am I being unrealistic?

Ashbrook said...

I absolutely loved John Doyle's production of Sweeney Todd. It's still on the top of my list of incredible theatrical experiences. I had the joy of seeing it multiple times on Broadway (and saw the tour in Boston this November). The incredible amount of detail and nuance in all the performances, especially those of smaller characters like Toby and Pirelli absolutely floored me.

I loved the movie, but you have to look at it as a movie, not as a stage musical. There are lots of changes that had to be made so it would work as a movie (all of which were Sondheim approved), but I think it captures the spirit of the musical better as it is than it would have had it been precisely translated to screen, unaltered. Different mediums. There are also a lot of traditional Sweeney Todd stage bits kept in (certain blocking, lines, etc.) that gives the movie integrity, IMO. Honestly, though, Helena Bonham Carter could do anything as Mrs. Lovett and I would praise her as long as "Not While I'm Around" and the bakehouse scene after were kept exactly as they are right now (absolutely heart-wrenching perfection).

Angelika HausFrauSki said...

BC, it should never be a surprise when Johnny Depp is incredible, because, well, he is.

He was even good when he was on "21 Jump Street," which is quite possibly one of the worst shows ever. In fact, I don't think I've ever NOT loved his work, even in a sh***y project.

He has always been one of the most talented film actors around, and it irritates me way more than it should that so many people knew nothing of his awesomeness until all the "Pirates" crap started happening.


Not at all surprised that you weren't thrilled with HB-C. I knew no one could stand up to Patti in your eyes. :)

oneeyeddog said...

Helena Bonham Carter - yummy no matter how you slice her.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's really difficult for me to imagine that people loved Doyle's production so much. It absolutely left me cold . . .and bored. I've heard it said that it was a Sweeney for those who already love the play. Having never seen the play before and not being familiar with the music before seeing it, maybe that has some validity.

Reading the raves made me feel like I missed something . . . but there's no way I would watch it again to find out for sure!

Ashbrook said...

I've known and loved Sweeney for many years, but I also know a fair number of people whose first contact with the musical was the revival and loved it. I know I particularly loved it as a Sweeney fan because it was so new. (Sweeney physically threatening Lovett after "Poor Thing"? I've never seen that before!) And I felt the instruments added so much, both with humor and characterization. (Johanna cowering behind the cello as the Judge sings his song about her, Toby stabbing his violin bow in the air mirroring Sweeney's razor in the Final Sequence, sobbing his eyes out.)

I mean, also for years I'd been saying, "They should do a Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd. With Patti LuPone." So... yeah.

I don't see how someone could fall asleep that close. I'd be terrified that Patti LuPone would chuck her tuba at me. (Or Donna Lynne Champlin, Pirelli, would've stabbed me with those scissors she had during the Fogg's Asylum scene.)

Dave T said...

Speaking of being so close...we were sitting in the FRONT row but were thankfully in the stage left section because Michael Cerveris tended to be ... how you say ... a little juicy in his delivery of the more passionate songs. By the middle of the first act, people down the row from us were flinching when he approached the front of the stage. At least they didn't pull out umbrellas...

It's hard for me to imagine anyone not loving or at least appreciating the Doyle production. But clearly people have different tastes and as we all know live theater can vary tremendously from night to night.

I should also say I've loved Helena Bonham-Carter in 'Fight Club,' her performance as Ophelia in the Mel Gibson 'Hamlet' movie is a touchstone for me, and I'm looking forward to her getting to chew even more scenery in the next Harry Potter movies. But Mrs Lovett -- well, I'll have to be convinced...

Cynde said...

I was fortunate enough to see the Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou production as well as Angela with George Hearn, and loved them, so I had a LOT of baggage going into the movie.
What got me though - going into the movie- is that Sondheim approved everything as being the best way to tell the story , for this medium. I consider his jugment impeccable. (even with the second acts of a lot of his shows, an argument for another time).
I did miss the voices in
"The Tale of Sweeney Todd" in the movie but the music was there and seemed to serve the same purpose. (at least to me)
I love to embrace the theatricality of the stage rather than hide it, but a movie is generally more realistic so I understand the "toning down" concept. "Sweeney" is so theatrical on stage, I knew a lot of things would need to be tweaked.
That said, I thought the "tweaking" worked magnificently in the movie. I thought both Depp and Bonham Carter were great in the acting department (I did miss Lansbury's giddiness) as was everyone else. If I had one thing to change, I wish Helena could have opened up a little more vocally, but she's a novice so it's not unexpected.
As for the Patti Lupone "Sweeney", I wish I could have seen it. Having done Shakespeare with 5 actors numerous times, I'm intrigued with the idea of adding music to the mix.

Thespis' Little Helper said...

Scenario: You're a writer. You wrote something huge and incredible. It's almost 30 years later. It's been done numerous times, several time incredibly well (Angela Lansbury, Dorothy Loudon, Christine Baranski, Judy Kaye, Patti Lupone) so you've gotten your catharsis or what-have-you from the piece.

Now someone wants to produce it bigger than ever and with oh so much more royalties for you than ever.

Would you speak negatively of this huge cash cow production or would you do what you could to push it along a bit?


He's a genius, Sondheim. Would he do something so financially stupid?

It's a valid argument to say that since it has his blessing (which a lot of people are commenting on), but I really wonder if it's an incredibly sound one.

oneeyeddog said...

I can't imagine for a second that Stephen Sondheim would sacrifice the integrity of his masterpiece for a few bucks. (Of course, he did let that travesty of a revival happen - but I doubt that money was the determining factor for that either)

Emily said...

Regarding aberlin and ashbrook's comments, I was one of those who barely knew Sweeney prior to seeing the revival, and yet I absolutely fell in love with it.
The first time I saw it I was merely drawn to the beautiful story and to John Doyle's incredible concept. But as I went back again and again I found it was the intricacies the actors added to their characters and the phenomenal dedication of every person on stage that left me truly floored.

As for the movie, I was very impressed with the originality that Tim Burton added to the story, while still keeping in so much of the original script and blocking. I was also pleased, in one way or another, with each actors' performance, my only regret being that so much of the interaction between Anthony and Johanna was cut, which I felt drastically changed the impact that Jayne Wisener's interpretation of Johanna could have had.
But overall, I found the movie to be quite enjoyable.

Unknown said...

Eine Tragödie der drastischen Anteile eis attending ashow of the Arts and having these people waving their fuufengaggen about mit all types of sounding gestures. Arts Cheerladen nein dumpkoff! Ja ja ja Mary Burruss you ein sehr großer Idiot

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed all the posts regarding Sweeney Todd. I still haven't seen the movie, but plan too. But, on another subject, is anyone else other than me pretty frigging sick of Siegfried and his cutesy yet MEAN jibes?

Unknown said...

ja ja ja Debra...you don't understand the wisdom that is Siegfried:
Siegfried is beauty and light
Siegfried is style and culture
Siegfried is vision and brilliance

You are jealous and uninformed
Go back to singing bad country music with your dead cousin Porter.

Unknown said...

ps debra.......

und to answer the twerpy question posed by you.

you are the only one without sufficient brain power to get Siegfried. So the answer is YES. You are the only one. Now farfugnugat to you and your trailer (sorry modular home)

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typo. Meant to type "plan to." Not "plan too."

And my apologies to Siegfried as well. I set myself up pretty well for those insults. Must be my lack of brainpower.

Now excuse me, but I've got to go clean the modular home (while singing bad country music). And I need to see if the ridin' mower has enough gas to git me to the store. We're outta beer.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.