Tony Award winners Michael Ceveris (Assassins) and Patti Lupone (Evita) lead a ten-person ensemble as Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett in the cast album from the celebrated new Broadway production of Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Originally produced in 1979, and considered a core work of Sondheim canon, Sweeney Todd has not been seen on Broadway in more than sixteen years. The revival opened to unanimous raves at the Eugene O'Neill Theater.
The 2005 revival of Stephen Sondheim's 1979 Grand Guignol masterpiece Sweeney Todd
illustrates what happens when you have a director with genuine vision. The show has been completely reivented, yet at the same time its dark core has been masterfully unveiled, not betrayed. In John Doyle's radically pared-down version (which originated in England), there's no orchestra in the pit: Each member of the small cast is on stage the entire time and plays one or more instrument in addition to singing. Thus Michael Cerveris (Sweeney) also plays guitar, Patti LuPone (Mrs. Lovett) plays percussion and tuba, Donna Lynne Champlin (Pirelli) plays accordion, piano, and flute, etc. Of course this means that those used to hearing Sondheim's operatic score delivered by a full orchestra (LuPone herself starred in a 2000 version
recorded with the New York Philharmonic) will have to get used to Sarah Travis's minimalist arrangements. But the setting works wonders and the cast rises to the challenge. Cerveris is intensely charismatic as the murderous barber and LuPone finds great dark humor in Mrs. Lovett, while the younger Lauren Molina (Johanna) and Manoel Felciano (Tobias) aptly go from innocence to despair. While completely different in style, this recording stands proudly next to the original one
. No small feat, that. --Elisabeth Vincentelli