The Playgoer: Legend of Sleepy Sweeney

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Legend of Sleepy Sweeney

Yes, all Tim Burton movies look alike. But still, the Sweeney Todd trailer is wicked cool.

Interesting, though, that it is apparently not being sold as a musical. In fact, until the very end I was convinced they were not doing Sondheim's Sweeney at all. (lots of talking, little singing)

Burton, Depp are marquee names. Not Steve.

In fact--if I'm not mistaken, this is the first feature film of a Sondheim musical since....(drum roll)... Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. In 1966*.

(I'm not counting TV broadcasts of Broadway productions, of course.)

To be fair, Hollywood pretty much stopped making musicals after that for a long, long time.

Also to be fair, to Sondheim, that film is unwatchable.

Correction: Commenters inform me I am neglecting a 1978 film of "A Little Night Music," directed by Hal Prince shortly after the Broadway original, starring Liz Taylor. Apparently, this film was not a good film.

*Also, I got the "Forum" movie date wrong: 1966, not 1963.


Rob Weinert-Kendt said...

Dude, can't let this slip--there was a (reportedly egregious) film of "Little Night Music" in 1978, starring Liz Taylor and Lesley Anne-Down. Never saw it, and no interest in it. And I supposed Pennebaker's film about the "Company" cast recording doesn't count. But still!

Stephen R. said...

Yep, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC with Liz as Desiree and Diana Rigg as Charlotte. Bad. Really bad. And that ain't good.

Anonymous said...

Just to reiterate: so, so, SO bad. Directed by Harold Prince, it ruined any shot at a film career for him or for Sondheim (until now). Liz as Desiree is so egregious, it's not even camp fun.

Rob Weinert-Kendt said...

One other quibble. Agreed the "Forum" film sucks. But Hollywood didn't quite give up on musicals adapted from stage hits. One of the highest-grossing ones ever is from 65, "Sound of Music." And other post-"Forum" musicals include "My Fair Lady," "Helly Dolly," "JC Superstar," "Fiddler," "Cabaret." Only the last two in that list are any good, but still! Just thought I'd pipe up.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to be the lone voice in the wilderness saying I sort of liked some moments in the "Night Music" film. Not a great film, but "Weekend in the Country" was a fun number.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Mr. Einhorn... although not a great film (it cut "Liaisons" and "The Miller's Son"), the film version of "A Little Night Music" definitely had its moments. My favorite is the rewritten "The Glamorous Life," which transferred main vocals to daughter Fredericka from Liz's vocally-challenged Desiree. In 1996 the Royal National Theatre incorporated the rewrite into a production starring Judi Dench.

Playgoer said...

Wow, had no idea about that Night Music film. Thanks, and duly noted above.

And Rob, point taken about it not yet being the end of the movie musical. Though I did get the date wrong, and Forum turns out to have been '66, which puts it after My Fair Lady & Sound of Music. I think we can safely call that the beginning of the end, at least.

When I think of what was to come, like Hello Dolly & Finian's Rainbow, regardless of how they may have done at the b.o., the form was clearly in decline, quality-wise, I'd say.

Tom said...

The Night Music film actually won Jonathan Tunick a scoring Oscar, too!

But it still bites.

Susan said...

I had the same reaction to the Sweeney preview - I thought for a while that maybe it wasn't the Sondheim musical at all, but a non-musical version of the story. Then Depp sang, and the little bit that came out of his mouth convinced me that no way is he going to be able to handle the vocal range of this part unless it's seriously modified for him. Which it probably was. However, the visuals looked amazing.