Stephen Sondheim’s macabre musical Sweeney Todd is one of my favorite theatrical works. Full of rich characters, drama, comedy, beautiful music, and bone chilling revelations it is a must see for any lover of theater. When I heard the New York Philharmonic was performing a semi-staged version of the musical, I rejoiced and bought a ticket!
Starring the Oscar winner Emma Thompson as Mrs. Lovett and the opera superstar Bryn Terfel in the title role, the New York Philharmonic’s production did not disappoint. (Judging by the applause and whooping of the audience throughout the evening, I am not alone in my opinion). Mr. Terfel, better known for his operatic performances of Wagner and Mozart, brought his rich booming voice to the role of Sweeney. The entire audience was enraptured in his beautiful voice. Mr. Terfel is the best Sweeney I have ever heard. Ms. Thompson, a richly gifted actress, is not best known for her singing. I approached this performance with some trepidation, as the role of Mrs. Lovett is known as one of the most difficult in all of musical theater. In Mrs. Lovett’s opening song, “The Worst Pies in London” the actress must sing an incredibly difficult song while pounding out a pastry pie to the beat. Ms. Thompson did not miss a beat and I am happy to report she can indeed sing. Ms. Thompson performed the role with incredible aplomb: at times incredible witty and hilarious and at others cunningly evil. The rest of the supporting cast was wonderful and hearing Mr. Sondheim’s beautiful score played by the incomparable New York Philharmonic was a real treat. You can watch a preview of the New York Philharmonic’s recent production here: