Thursday, August 25, 2005

Cometh The Demon Barber

Anyone who lives in New York City knows what the 4 train is like at 8 in the morning on a weekday. For those who don't, let's just say that "claustrophobia-inducing" only just begins to cover it. Passengers are packed in like sardines and on most occasions you'll get more familiar with your neighbors than you'd like. However, this morning I was glad to be crushed up against one particular gentleman. This has nothing to do with physical attraction (guys aren't my thing), but rather everything to do with the paper he was reading. Next to some mindless op-ed piece was a full page ad touting the return of my favorite musical of ALL TIME: Sweeney Todd.

Before I gush more about this, let's talk about Broadway. In my opinion, it pretty much sucks. It's filled to the brim with overly melodramatic, simplistic music and mindnumbing plots. Phantom Of The Opera? Put me to sleep. Andrew Lloyd Weber is a hack who hasn't done anything decent since Jesus Christ Superstar. Miss Saigon? Yawn. The Lion King? All flash, no substance. Sure, Chicago and Cabaret were very good, but that's pretty slim pickin's given the amount you have to choose from. I've always preferred Off- and Off-Off-Broadway stuff: much more exciting; much more experimental. However, challenging stuff never makes any money because, after all, the dumbest buy the most-est. So the return of Sweeney Todd is quite the breath of fresh air for me.

The music is fantastic (after all, it's Stephen Sondheim), the plot dark and gripping. For you poor unfortunates who are unfamiliar, things go like this...

The musical is set in London, probably sometime in the early 1900s. Todd is a barber with a lovely wife named Lucy. Lucy is so lovely, in fact, that she attracts the attention of the local magistrate, Judge Turpin. The judge is so enamored of Todd's wife that he fabricates charges against the hapless barber and has him sent off to prison ("Botany Bay! For life!"). Turpin then moves in as a sympathetic figure, but takes advantage of Lucy, raping her at a party.

Years pass and then Todd escapes from prison. He returns to England to seek his revenge against Judge Turpin. Upon his arrival, he discovers that his wife is dead and his daughter is now the ward of Judge Turpin. Through a series of events, Todd decides to not only take revenge upon the judge, but pretty much everybody else, slicing their throats while they sit is his chair ("And what if none of their souls were saved? / They went to their maker impeccably shaved").

Only the truly talented can sing while getting their throats cut.

His partner is crime is Ms. Lovett, the proprietor of a meat pie shop. She comes up with the wonderfully grisly idea of disposing of the victims' bodies by making them into... yup, you guessed it... meat pies. While this sounds terrible (and it is), the resulting lyrics are some of the most darkly comical you will EVER hear. A brief sampling from "Have A Little Priest"...

LOVETT: It's priest. Have a little priest.
TODD: Is it really good?
LOVETT: Sir, it's too good, at least!
Then again, they don't commit sins of the flesh,
So it's pretty fresh.
TODD: Awful lot of fat.
LOVETT: Only where it sat.
TODD: Haven't you got poet, or something like that?
LOVETT: No, y'see, the trouble with poet is
'Ow do you know it's deceased?
Try the priest!
TODD: (spoken) Heavenly!
Not as hearty as bishop, perhaps,
but then again, not as bland as curate, either!
LOVETT: And good for business, too -- always leaves you wantin' more!
Trouble is, we only get it on Sundays! ...Lawyer's rather nice.
TODD: If it's for a price.
LOVETT: Order something else, though, to follow,
Since no one should swallow it twice!
TODD: Anything that's lean.
LOVETT: Well, then, if you're British and loyal,
You might enjoy Royal Marine!
Anyway, it's clean.
Though of course, it tastes of wherever it's been!
TODD: Is that squire,
On the fire?
LOVETT: Mercy no, sir, look closer,
You'll notice it's grocer!
TODD: Looks thicker,
More like vicar!
LOVETT: No, it has to be grocer --
It's green!

You get the idea, no? Perhaps not for those without a suitably dark sense of humor.

I won't go into further detail, but suffice to say that Sweeney Todd is terrifying, electrifying, and endearing, all at the same time. Truly a symphony of tasty for the ears and eyes. Come to New York and see the show. Or rent the movie. Just be warned that one of the female leads in the movie is just terrible. Ignoring that, however, it's an excellent production.

So I'm buying my tickets after work today. I'm dragging my Mom and my sister and her fiancé up to see it in November.

God, I love this town.

Sondheim would no doubt also enjoy:

Gary Numan - Hybrid
(twisted remakes of some of his classic tunes)

Polar - 37 Degrees C And Falling
(icy dnb from the frozen north)

Analog Pussy - Psycho Bitch From Hell
(pounding 4-on-the-floor dance; infectious as hell)

Various - Spintrax 8
(more random MP3 yumminess I tossed onto CD)

Various - Crunchpod Volumes 1-3
(oh the noise noise noise noise)


Anonymous Ivan Vlastislav said...

Hey Ben -

Stephen Joshua Sondheim is quite the composer, all of his stuff is great. Wish I were there.


11:19 AM  

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