Are movie musicals back in Hollywood's good graces? Looks like it, with the steady stream of stage blockbusters hoofing and belting their way to film studios. Quality-wise, though, it remains a hit-and-miss affair. Let's see: “Chicago,” yes! “The Producers,” no. “Dreamgirls,” hell, yeah. “Rent,” so-so. “Phantom of the Opera,” ho-hum. “Hairspray,” hooray!
Who'd think that that devilishly difficult musical, Stephen Sondheim's “Sweeney Todd,” is up next? Cast and crew led by star Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton reportedly wrapped up work on the film in UK last July, and a release date has been set for December 2007. Come that date, this riveting poster is what we'll all gawk at in the malls:
By the way, Johnny Depp singing the legendary near-operatic score, arguably Mr. Sondheim's musical masterpiece? (Others would say it is opera.) Not only he, but the rest of the cast, apparently, which also includes Helena Bonham-Carter (as Mrs. Lovett), Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Borat), Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall and Laura Michelle Kelly. A previous Dreamworks statement maintained that “All the stars will do their own singing from Stephen Sondheim's music and lyrics.” Aver nga!
If this blog is to be believed, Mr. Sondheim himself is pleased with the film. Emphasis on the qualifying preface, because while Certifiably Creative quotes Mr. Sondheim liberally, it doesn't say who interviewed him, except to mention that “He was speaking at Sydney's Theatre Royal last Friday.” I'm guessing the quotes also came from a studio release, but anyway...
“Sometimes a story or stage production has to wait a long time until the right people come together to turn it into a motion picture. That's what has happened with 'Sweeney Todd' and I'm excited as well as confident that it will be a first-rate and startling movie,” said Mr. Sondheim.
Also, “There are songs that have been cut, and cuts within some of the songs, but generally it is pretty much the score,” he says, after having seen the screenplay adaptation by John Logan. “The plot is very little changed... It is pretty faithful.”
As to why he was letting Tim Burton take a crack at his most enduring work: “Film is a director's medium and I would not have the patience to direct even if I had the talent for it.”
Mr. Burton, of course, is known for his dark, sensuously sinister movies (“Sleepy Hollow,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Batman” and “Batman Returns”), which is also what “Sweeney Todd” is--dark, sinister, sensuous, not to mention soaring and thrilling. “It has got a lot of blood in it and that's fine by me,” Mr. Sondheim declared of the film. This we've got to see.
In the meantime, here's a still photo of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett in a huddle, hatching perhaps their next big serving of human meat pies. Yum!
(Thanks, Ralph Pena, for the pic!)