Sunday, November 11, 2007
Friday night, Cristina (one of my best friends) and myself went to the Las Vegas Academy prduction of Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The Las Vegas Academy is a Las Vegas high school that is art-centric and all the students that attend have to audition before being accepted as a student. Another of my best friends, Kim, recently transferred as a biology teacher to Las Vegas Academy and she knew that I liked musicals so she lined me up with tickets to the big show - and quite the big show it was!
Prior to seeing this production of Sweeney Todd, I knew little of the story, with my first introduction to it being in a great comic book horror anthology called Taboo. In Taboo #6 (1992) there was an insert of a comic adaptation that Neil Gaiman and artist Michael Zulli were going to do. Taboo closed up shop before the comic adaptation of Sweeney Todd happened and for whatever reason Gaiman and Zulli never took their idea to do this story as a comic anywhere else, which is really a shame because it's a great story and would have been greatly suited to their talents.
Sweeney Todd started as a penny dreadful (kind of like the pulps in the early part of the 1900's) in England by Thomas Priest in 1846 and has since seen many incarnations, most notably as a musical on Broadway in 2005 with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (that went on to win several Tonys) and as an upcoming movie by Tim Burton, with Johnny Depp as Sweeney. Having just watched the trailer, it looks great visually (as most Burton movies do), but I'm a little concerned that it's not going to be as much of a musical as I'd like it to be.
Sweeney Todd, as performed by the Las Vegas Academy, was / is very much a musical, with the characters breaking out into songs almost from beginning to end as means of telling the story. I was blown away with the fact that this was a high school production and I even joked to Kim that these are just older actors posing as high school students. The singing, music, acting, sets, costumes, and overall production values were top notch and I'm still amazed that these students could put on a production of this caliber and also attend their classes. The theatre itself is also impressive, especially with it's huge orchestra pit that I didn't even know existed until Kim showed me during intermission (I thought the music was recorded)! Sweeney Todd was played by Philip Cerza, who was great and I half jokingly told Kim that he would make a great Wolverine (probably due to the way his hair was styled).
Basically Sweeney Todd is about what its subtitle suggests: "The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", a dark, sometimes comedic tale of a serial killer barber (it takes place in the late 1800's), so it's a perfect vehicle for a Tim Burton production, but I'd recommend if you're able to at any point to catch a live musical production of Sweeney Todd. I especially liked one of the songs that advocates / celebrates cannibilism and one of my favorite lines in Sweeney Todd is: "The history of the world is to eat or be eaten."
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