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Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Broadway) (Snap Case)

4.7 out of 5 stars 261 customer reviews

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(Apr 20, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Times are hard in 1846 London and one must make do. So Nellie Lovett adds something extra to the meat pies she peddles on Fleet Street. The secret ingredient: freshly murdered victims of her partner in crime, barber Sweeney Todd. Composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim refashions a macabre tale into a musical masterwork in this dazzling performance of the 1979 Broadway hit originally staged by Harold Prince. In her Tony-winning role (one of eight the show earned, including Best Musical), Angela Lansbury plays Nellie. George Hearn turns his stage role of twisted Sweeney into an Emmy-winning triumph. The score coils around itself in ever-tightening spirals. The lines ripple with black humor and madness. Enter Sweeney's tonsorial parlor. Attend the tale.

Stephen Sondheim's Victorian horror thriller Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is generally considered his greatest work, macabre but darkly humorous with a viscerally powerful score that has found a home both on Broadway and in opera houses. George Hearn (who replaced Len Cariou of the original Broadway cast) plays the title character, a wronged man whose lust for revenge drives him to murder (an 18th-century legend who has been traced to a real-life barber), and Angela Lansbury plays his partner in crime, Mrs. Lovett, who finds a practical business use for Todd's victims. This combination of horror and humor is echoed in Sondheim's score: brooding menace ("The Ballad of Sweeney Todd," "My Friend"), achingly beautiful ballads ("Johanna," "Not While I'm Around"), clever puns ("A Little Priest"), coloratura arias ("Green Finch and Linnet Bird"), and intricate choral and ensemble numbers.

Continuing a fortuitous tradition of capturing the Sondheim legacy on video recordings, this performance was filmed before a live audience in Los Angeles during the 1982 national tour. Almost 20 years later, Hearn returned to the role opposite Patti LuPone in an acclaimed concert production. But Sweeney Todd is an especially compelling experience in this 1982 version, complete with the clever staging tricks (e.g., the barber's chair) and as close to the original cast as we're likely to see. --David Horiuchi

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Angela Lansbury, George Hearn, Cris Groenendaal, Sara Woods, Edmund Lyndeck
  • Directors: Terry Hughes
  • Writers: Christopher Bond, Hugh Wheeler
  • Producers: Archer King, Bonnie Burns
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Turner Home Ent
  • DVD Release Date: April 20, 2004
  • Run Time: 140 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (261 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JL6V
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,549 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Broadway) (Snap Case)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 25, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I have been watching this 1982 production of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" for almost twenty years on videotape, so releasing it on DVD would be greatly appreciated. The cast features three of the original stars of the 1979 Broadway production: Angela Lansbury in her Tony Award winning role as Mrs. Lovett, Edmund Lyndeck as Judge Turpin, and Ken Jennings as Tobias Ragg. Well, you can also add to this list Cris Groenendaal and Betsy Joslyn, who play the young lovers Anthony Hope and Johanna, since they were members of the original company. Len Cariou had been replaced in the title role by George Hearn, who was still two years away from winning the Tony Award for his performance in "La Cage aux Folles." On Broadway Hearn played opposite Dorothy Louden before teaming up with Lansbury for the show's touring company and eventually this Showtime production of the musical.
Stephen Sondheim has said that if people insist on putting "Sweeney Todd" into a category it would be black comic operetta, which is as good a way as any of defining its uniqueness. If you are going to have a barber who slits the throats of his customer team up with a woman who bakes the corpses into meat pies, then black comedy would be the way to go. But what makes "Sweeney Todd" so marvelous is that it mixes the dark comedy with chilling horror. For the most part the comedy is carried by Lansbury's Mrs. Lovett, starting with "The Worst Pies in Lond," while Hearn's Todd provides the chills, beginning with the hauntingly beautiful "My Friends," sung to his razors. Of course, it is "A Little Priest" that brings these two elements together, but while it is no doubt the show's signature piece it is not the supreme dramatic moment.
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Format: DVD
"Sweeney Todd" has been out of print for many, many years. Video copies went for enormous sums, and I had to settle for an aging video copy I recorded when the show was first aired on television 22 years ago. I understood that there were some copyright issues that stopped the show from being re-released, which have apparently been resolved.
Although I usually curse Warner Brothers for having the worst track record of any major studio for not releasing their extensive library of films to DVD, today I applaud them for giving us back this wonderful show with its delightful performances on DVD. Not only can we relish Angela Lansbury in her Tony-winning role as Mrs. Lovett, but we get the extra bonus of seeing George Hearn as Sweeney, to my mind the best Sweeney I've ever seen (and I've seen two others as well -- Len Cariou, who originated the role on Broadway and was probably the sexiest Sweeney (making Lovett's attraction for him perfectly understandable), but without Hearn's depth and a bit too American (or rather, Canadian), and Denis Quilley, who performed the role in London. Although Quilley's acting and singing talents were a match for Hearn's, he was physically not exactly right.
As for the Mrs. Lovetts I've seen, the West End production's Sheila Hancock will always be my favorite for her ability to capture all the comedic aspects of the role (as Angela Lansbury does too) while still managing to plumb the pure evil depths and total amorality of the character. Ms. Hancock had the ability to make the theatre-goer laugh his head off one moment, and then to send chills down his spine the next. But who could not love Angela as well? And aside from Ms.
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Format: DVD
Much care has been taken on this DVD transfer. The sound, which was always muddy on the original VHS release is much crisper and clearer. The organ prelude which was faded on the VHS release continues now right up until the factory whistle.
One person here commented that he could not hear the audience. The audience is there in the extreme left and right channels just as always. Maybe you need to get your sound system tweaked? Or use the 2 channel stereo mix. But it's all there.
Best of all this transfer brings out details in the orchestra that were never heard before.
The performances remain as vivid as when this production was first broadcast in 1982. I have always had minor reservations about Betsy Joslyn's cross-eyed Joanna and some of the cuts made in the show: The tooth-pulling section of "The Contest", the Judge's whipping number, and most of the "Parlour Songs" were trimmed form the show due to overlength. The road tour set is not as elaborate as the one used on Broadway (in the opening and closing numbers Sweeney Todd rose out of the stage on a lift... very effective!) but this is the SWEENEY TODD that Hal Prince staged.
One other bit of good news that no one else here has mentioned: There are subtitles so you can follow along the trickier lyrics. Strange that there are none on the DVD's of INTO THE WOODS, PASSION or SUNDAY IN THE PARK. It's most welcome on SWEENEY TODD.
Of course it is best to see stage musicals live in the theatre, but this video production offers a good approximation of what it was like when SWEENEY TODD was unleashed on us 25 years ago.
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