Sweeney Todd in Concert
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Maybe even better. What the original show lacks, this has, and vise versa, but you have to watch the original one first in order to fully appreciate this revived and revised version. For example, the original has all the sets, costumes, and special effects, but the sound isn't really all that great. This DVD focuses mostly on sound and music quality, but you have to use your imagination in some of the action scenes. Certain things are strictly representational. First of all, there's no blood, and no barber chair with a trap door. Mostly when the actors get killed they just walk off the stage, but the camera work is fantastic. In the original show it was kind of sloppy at times. Here, the camera zooms in so close to the actors faces, in some scenes, that you can actually see the spit flying out of their mouths. That's cool! Additionally, there are certain elements that won't make sense unless you watch the original, such as the oven scenes (there isn't one at all in this version, just a curtain, but the actors pretend that it's the oven door, which is kind of lame).

George Hearn, as always, is astounding in the title role, and with age he seems to have grown more comfortable with it. Patty Lupone is sexy as hell as Mrs. Lovett, and Neil Patrick Harris pulls off a surprisingly convincing performance as Tobias Ragg. Timothy Nolen is of course fabulously perverted and disgusting in his role as Judge Turpen. To tell you the truth, I can't think of a single performer in this production that I didn't like, but I'm running out of room.

Another bonus, this performance contains Judge Turpan's solo, which was cut from the original show when it was performed for television. The original version with George Hearn and Angela Lansbury is available now on DVD, as well. Get them both, and then sit back and enjoy the ride.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I only caught the end of "Sweeney Todd in Concert" when it appeared on the local PBS station, so I was gratified to see that the production is available for mass consumption. "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" remains one of my favorite Broadway shows (I really consider it an opera, but Stephen Sondheim says if you insist on having a label call it an operetta with a strong black comedy element, so I will just avoid using any word beginning with "o" and avoid the debate). I saw the story on "60 Minutes" about the production and picked up the record album and played it endlessly once it was available. I saw a road show production starring June Havoc, better known as "Baby June," the older sister of Gypsy Rose Lee; we are talking a professional vaudevillian comedienne who sang everything about an octave lower than it was written. But after watching the tour-de-force performance of "Epiphany" I was down in the lobby at intermission buying tickets for the next night. When the 1982 road show with George Hearn and Angela Landsbury was shown on television I taped it, and now we have this concert performance.
The main attraction for me is that both the orchestra and chorus are bigger and better. The difference this makes in our enjoyment of the show is clear as soon as the company launches into the "Prologue." As for the performers I have to admit that I did not know that the title role was originally supposed to have been played by Bryn Terfel, so I was not aware that the majority of principle singers were trained more in opera than musical theater. After all, the recognizable names are those of a pair of Broadway veterans, George Hearn and Patti Lupone, plus a television dramedy star, Neil Patrick Howser, er, I mean Harris. Hearn, of course, knows the part of Sweeney Todd well, and Lupone puts her own stamp on Mrs. Lovett, making the pie shop owner's romantic feelings for the barber more believable. Director Lonny Price calls Harris the definitive Tobias and I would not be inclined to argue the point.
Again, there is more of a sense of realism to the production, and less of the theater of the macabre, and I think this is due to the casting choices rather than to the stripped down performance of the show where there are no sets, but costumes and props. I think that the subtle differences in Hearn's performance is as much a reaction to the cast he is singing with as much as his take on the role two decades later. I can go through the cast of singers and point to the marked differences between these voices and those of the original Broadway cast and find a much greater sense of gravity, from Timothy Nolen as Judge Turpin and Davis Gaines as Anthony Hope to Lisa Vroman as Johanna and Stanford Olsen as Pirelli. This production of "Sweeney Todd" unveils new depths to the story. There seems an invaluable less here and it certainly suggests that having "opera" singers do other pieces of a similar type would bear similar fruit. I know this was done before with "West Side Story" and other Rodgers & Hammerstein shows, but it seems that maybe the music of Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd Webber might be better suited to such attempts than the American musical theater of the 1950s.
As with any taped "stage" performance, one of the advantages is that the camera can get us close enough to see what the expressions on the faces of the characters. Yes, it is somewhat disconcerting to see the orchestra behind the characters, but you forget them after a while. After all, it is singing that you want to hear. That is why it must be added that the only reason to buy "Sweeney Todd in Concert" on VHS instead of DVD is that you do not have a DVD player. However, since this is the 21st century, that should not be a problem. The whole point of a concert is the SOUND and that plays to the strength of the DVD (plus you have three options on the sound to pick the one that best suits your system requirements.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2002
Words can not truly express how great La LuPone is in this role. It is not fare to compare her with Angela Lansbury who is the definitive "Mrs. Lovett" but LuPone brings on a much darker and sexier "Mrs. Lovett" than anyone I have seen. George Hearn is awesome as "Sweeney" and his years of playing him have really made him the definitive "Demon Barber". I was lucky enough to obtain 3rd row tickets to the Friday performance of the San Francisco Philharmonic's "Sweeney Todd" and it was a theatrical experience that I will never forget. LuPone and Hearn are a theatrical match made in heaven. I didn't care too much for Davis Gaines. The rest of the cast was awesome. GET THIS DVD! You won't regret it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2003
Of the concert musicals I've seen, this is certainly one of the finest. The performers are not quite "in costume" but rather in (mostly) all-black Japanese formal wear-flavored variations on the original SWEENEY's costumes. Cleverly done, as is the platform stage design around the orchestra (the exquisite San Fransisco Symphony.) It is also much more intimate and better executed than the lackluster LES MISERABLES IN CONCERT. The sound and picture quality of the DVD are also crystal-clear.

George Hearn reprises the title role, which he took over for the original Len Cariou on Broadway and played on tour. To me, Hearn is the definitive Sweeney. It's been almost 20 years since he played the role opposite the original Mrs. Lovett, Angela Lansbury, on the PBS performance. At 67, his emotional ferocity combined with his rich, booming baritone are still unmatched. Todd could easily be portrayed as a monster from a horror film, and Hearn gives him humanity and depth that at times brings you to tears.

The casting of Patti LuPone as Mrs. Lovett is an inspired choice, and clearly she is having the time of her life. If LuPone doesn't actually get inside the character--her acting is very 'nudge-nudge-wink-wink' and punchlines are played directly to the audience--her belt remains one of the most exciting voices in the theatre world. She not only rises to the challenge of this tricky score, but sings the hell out of it.

The supporting cast is wonderful. Davis Gaines (Anthony) and Lisa Vroman (Johanna) have both chemistry and incomparable pipes, while Neil Patrick Harris makes a sweet Tobias. Timothy Nolen (Judge Turpin), John Aler (Beadle), and Stanford Olsen (Pirelli) are all primarily opera singers and show some fine acting chops. Victoria Clark is a STANDOUT as the Beggar Woman. Also kudos to the vocal chorus who seamlessly go in and out of the action on stage.

The 1982 DVD with Hearn and Lansbury is still a must-have, but this concert is highly recommended as a close runner-up.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2006
Since buying this a few weeks ago, I've already watched it 3 times. Now, the concert setup is a little odd for those expecting to see all of the action, but with the way the stage was designed it works very well and imagination fills in the rest. I was expecting to be a bit disappointed by the concert version but I've been pleasantly surprised by how good it is.

Now that I've seen the 1982 version (Angela Lansbury, George Hearn, Cris Groenendaal, and Sara Woods), I think that the concert version has a lot to recommend it. We get to see George Hearn re-visit his character and he brings a wonderful passion and crazed believability to Sweeney Todd. Patti LuPone does an excellent Mrs. Lovett, but with more sass and sultriness (and sexiness) then the lighter absent-minded Mrs. Lovett in the original.

Pirelli (performed by Stanford Olsen) is a lot more memorable in this version then in the 1982 version. The Pirelli in the original was a good bit harsher and not as suave. I think they also redid the dialog and score slightly in the dueling barber scene for the 2001 version as it hangs together a lot better. Olsen plays a very memorable Pirelli and hits his notes perfectly.

I also have a fondness for the 2001 Joanna instead of the 1982 Joanna. The concert version features a sweeter and more innocent performance. Combine that with the fabulous performances by the rest of the cast and you have a very valuable version of Sweeney Todd.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2005
I highly recommend this version of the show. I saw it live in SF and was delighted to catch it on PBS and now on DVD. The singing and performances are excellent. I have the DVD of the original as well and have heard Angela Lansbury is legendary. While I really loved Angela Lansbury I felt Patti LuPone brought a realness to the role that was funny and entertaining and much more preferrable. George Hearn is exceptional as well as Neil Patrick Harris. The orechestra is fantastic and this show is as close to perfect a production as I have seen.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2003
Sweeney Todd is a fantastic musical and this DVD truly lives up to the quality of the show itself. Bear with me as this is probably more of a comparison to the 1982 video than many would like. To begin, of the two, the acting and singing in the Concert is superior. Granted Angela Lansbury isn't to be topped, however LuPone's Lovett is a nicely different interpretation offering more sensuality to the role. I had the good fortune of listening to the New York Philharmonic recording first, and LuPone was extremely grating on that recording, but by the time the Concert was performed in San Fransisco, she toned down a little, providing a much better performance. Overall, I enjoy LuPone's performance on the DVD. She is a true comediene--perhaps my favorite moment is right after Sweeney's Epiphany, a great transition into the lighter feel of A Little Priest. George Hearn is still fantastic after 20 years, there's nothing else to be said. Lisa Vroman is also good as Johanna. A lot of people have complaints, but I seem to have forgotten her lackluster acting, because I tend to be pretty hypercritical. In fact, my main memory from the DVD is the nuance in Vroman's singing during "Green Finch..." which i don't hear in the original cast, but now can't imagine an actress not picking up on it--it concerns the lines "Are you crowing, Are you screaming?". Also, she is 27 times better than the girl on the 1982 tour with Hearn and Lansbury. Even if you don't like Vroman, I can't see how you would like the other girl better. Davis Gaines is great, even if he looks pretty old to be Anthony. Nolan makes a great Judge Thurpin and is perfectly disconcerting. Also, the costume concept is great, and the use of platforms surrounding the orchestra is a fantastic idea. As many others have observed, this concert experience far surpasses the Les Mis 10th Anniversary concert. And the only ways that the 82 production is preferable are because it has Lansbury and a massive set. Otherwise, even if you could get the 82 production on DVD, I would suggest this DVD as a first buy. And since the '82 version isn't available, what are you waiting for? buy it immediately!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2006
This is a really great concert version of Sweeny Todd. I saw the DVD with George Hearn and Angela Lansbury and I think nobody could top those two together, but Patti Lu Pone does Mrs. Lovett in her own way and it DEFINITELY works. I also think George Hearn needs to be congratulated on not loosing his touch in over 20 years.

It is kinda annoying with no fake blood or trap door, but all the acting and singing is there, so what more do you need? I think the Anthony and Joanna in this version are better than the old DVD. Patti Lu Pone's voice suits the role perfectly and I think she's good enough to be paid attention to and not have people thinking how Angela Lansbury was better every second she's on stage.

Finally, the chorus does annoy me a bit, but you get over it. The filming's pretty good and the quality is excellent. I think it's worth getting this DVD, even if you've seen another version, because it's always good to have the comparison and this is a great performance from practically everyone.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2002
Let's start with what's wrong here. Not much. Of course, Patti Lupone isn't quite right as Mrs. Lovett. She plays her hard and manipulative, with none of the misguided vulnerability that made Angela Lansbury's interpretation both more likeable and more evil. George Hearn hams it up now and then as Sweeney, but he clearly has command of the role. Both he and Lupone, whose approaches couln't be more varied, actually work quite well together and you believe in their evil alliance. The supporting performances are uniformly excellent, especially the surprising Neil Patrick Harris as Tobias. What's most remarkable about this DVD is the presentation of the show. This is no mere "in concert" performance, but a pared down version of the actual musical, uniquely staged around an orchestra and chorus. If you've never seen "Sweeney Todd", this is the SHOW folks, not a reasonable facsimile. Watching it was an absolute pleasure from start to finish, and there's not one moment that is less than riveting. Jule Styne once said that "Sweeney Todd" is the best example of writing for the musical theater, and he was not wrong. One is reminded of the marvel of this show throughout it's presentation here. There is no better example of the Broadway musical, or American music for that matter, than "Sweeney Todd". This version does Sondheim proud, but you don't have to be a fan to savor the wonder of this work.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2007
This production is amazing, the operatic voices, the full symphony, George Hearn, Patti LuPone, Niel Patrick Harris, Timothy Nolen ...

While I do enjoy the 2005 revival cast recording and find its minimalist orchestrations interesting and even inspired at times, it does not do justice to Sondheim's score. This orchestral performance does. I know there are many who prefer the earlier recording with Angela Landsbury. I find the tempos in the Landsbury recording to be slightly too fast for my taste. But that is all it is, a matter of taste. I love LuPone's performance in this symphonic recording. She brings a more overt sexuality to Mrs. Lovett's role than Landsbury. Again, it's a matter of taste.
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