Top positive review
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A brilliant record of a brilliant show!
on 10 August 2001
Not your typical Broadway musical, Sweeney Todd marked Stephen Sondheim's transition from more traditional shows to larger, almost operatic enterprises. To my mind, it is Sondheim's most satisfying achievement. I saw Sweeney shortly after it opened on Broadway and it remains one of my most vivid theatrical memories. This double CD set goes a long way towards recreating that magic. The story of a wrongly-accused barber who returns to London in search of his beloved wife and daughter and, not finding them, turns to slitting his customers' throats and turning them into pies might not sound like the basis of an enjoyable experience. But Sweeney Todd has just the right combination of Victorian melodrama, high camp, low characters and very dark humour to draw anyone into its spell. And then there is the music. While not the sort of Rodgers & Hammerstein score in which every other song becomes a standard, there are still plenty of musical highlights - such as the comic "Worst Pies in London", the macabre "A Little Priest", the beguiling "Johanna", and the surprisingly tender "Not While I'm Around". The songs are all integral to the plot and this double CD set is a virtual recreation of the show. The performances are all excellent - a reminder that Angela Lansbury did some quite good things before she became a television sleuth. But towering above everyone is Len Cariou as Sweeney in a performance so magnificent that you wonder why he was never so good again. Maybe because he never did another Sondheim musical. And Sondheim is the real star here. Listen to Sweeney Todd by all means. But not alone - and certainly not in the dark!