Up until this past Thursday, I'd watched 16 performances of Sweeney Todd starring Patti LuPone as Mrs. Lovett. Patti LuPone does a great job. After seeing her in so many performances it was hard to imagine anyone else playing the role and doing as well.
Thursday night, Judy Kaye played Mrs. Lovett in her place.
It's like comparing apples and oranges. They both bring something different to the role.
Judy Kaye brings a consistently good Cockney accent. And a dash of humor lacking in Patti LuPone's tartier and slightly more goth performance. I actually almost prefer Judy Kaye's performance. She sings the lyrics more clearly and she plays it a little more camp which works for this show because it is, as after all is said and done, still a Broadway show. The only thing I don't prefer is Judy Kaye's singing voice which is not to say she's not a good singer. Of course, Judy Kaye is a beautiful singer but Patti LuPone does things with her voice that makes her singing seem more emotional than Judy Kaye. Also, Patti LuPone plays the tuba better.
And of course, I recommend you see the show with Judy Kaye. She gets a lot more laughs than Patti LuPone and reminds the audience that Sweeney Todd is actually a funny show. And it's nice to hear Ms. Kaye singing those brilliant Sondheim lyrics instead of Ms. LuPone occasionally mumbling them. And did I mention she has trouble with the Cockney accent.
But then there's the on-stage chemistry between Patti LuPone and Michael Cerveris. Wow. You'd think these two were really sleeping together with all the passion they share on stage. And it really is enjoyable to watch them. Their chemistry is worth every penny of the full asking price per ticket. Their amazing relationship probably comes from having performed the show together for so long which is not something Ms. Kaye is going to be able to recreate in three short weeks.
If you've never seen Patti LuPone in the role, you would never know the chemistry between Cerveris and Kaye was missing.
Go see it. It's very good.