Doin' the Friday Shuffle
Because I'm still all a-tingly from the poster below, I present an all-Sweeney shuffle!
1. "Pretty Women" - Stephen Sondheim (Mark Jacoby and Alexander Gemignani) - Sweeney Todd (2005 Broadway Revival Cast)
From the stripped-down version with cast members doubling as the on-stage orchestra. The result is a piano-heavy, spare reduction of the score that somehow (while it will never replace the brilliance of Jonathan Tunick's original orchestrations) works very well on its own terms. This is one of the prettiest songs in the score, a touching, sweet elegy to the wondrousness of women undercut by the fact that it is being sung by a revenge-bent maniac and the youth-defiling judge who stole his wife many years ago.
2. "Prelude and Ballad of Sweeney Todd" - Stephen Sondheim - Sweeney Todd (Original Broadway Cast)
The perfect scene setter. I love the so-gothic pipe organ intro, the shrill factory whistle and the dark, unsettling Ballad of Sweeney Todd that follows. When Sweeney comes in at the end - goosebumps. And listen to the harmonies when the chorus comes in en mass for the first time. Great stuff.
3. "Ladies in their Sensibilities" - Stephen Sondheim (Michael Cerveris and Alexander Gemignani) - Sweeney Todd (2005 Broadway Revival Cast)
Gemignani's good, but he can't get at the ridiculously plummy and officious tone Jack Eric Williams affected in the original.
4. "Epiphany" - Stephen Sondheim (George Hearn) - Sweeney Todd in Concert
From the Lincoln Center concert, with the old-hand Hearn (he was in the original tour with Angela Lansbury back in the seventies) filling in for an injured Byrn Terfel. I love hearing this music performed by the Philharmonic. This is my favorite song in the musical theatre repertoire, with Sweeney losing his mind and deciding to kill the poor fools who come to him for a share. Hearn is just great.
This clip is from the original touring cast, not the concert.
5. "Wait" - Stephen Sondheim (Patti LuPone) - Sweeney Todd (2005 Broadway Revival Cast)
Probably my least-favorite song in the score, although LuPone acquits herself nice here.
6. "By the Sea" - Stephen Sondheim (Angela Lansbury) - Sweeney Todd (Original Broadway Cast)
The demented, cannibalism-suggesting Mrs. Lovett sings of her imagined life of domestic bliss with Todd. I can't wait to see Helena Bonham Carter do this.
7. "Ladies in Their Sensibilities" - Stephen Sondheim (Jack Eric Williams) - Sweeney Todd (Original Broadway Cast)
See number five above - just a great vocal performance here, with some pure and ringing high notes that have to be heard to be believed.
8. "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" - Stephen Sondheim (Ensemble) - Sweeney Todd (Original Broadway Cast)
The finale, a reprise of the opening number. I love the high falsetto verse sung by Pirelli and the Beadle, and how it contrasts with the big wall of sound version in the opening.
9. "The Contest" - Stephen Sondheim (Joaquin Romaquera) - Sweeney Todd (Original Broadway Cast)
I played Pirelli in high school, and sang this. Very, very high.
10. "Act I, Part I" - Stephen Sondheim - Sweeney Todd (Covent Garden)
I recorded this off of a live radio feed - it's the full opera version done by the English Royal Opera Company at Covent Garden a few years back. Hence the "Act I, Part I" - it came through in big chunks. One of the few Broadway shows that holds up when done by an opera company.