July 24, 2006

That's What Makes the Gravy Grander

"What's my secret? Frankly, dear, forgive my candor!
Family secret, all to do with herbs!
Things like being careful with the corriander,
that's what makes the gravy grander!"
- Mrs. Lovett (God, that's Good!)

The above song quote is from Sweeney Todd - the opening number of Act II where Mrs. Lovett celebrates her recent success from selling meat pies made from humans to her unsuspecting customers.

I bought Jon a ticket to see Sweeney Todd on Sunday because that's where I was working and I really wanted him to see the show before it closed. Speaking with ushers I learned that the show is scheduled to stay at the Eugene O'Neill theater until December. From observation I learned that the show may close earlier than that because the show isn't selling out. There are some nights when the theater isn't even half full.

This is a shame really because it's such a good production, you want it to run forever like Chicago (featuring Usher as Billy Flynn) or A Chorus Line (which is coming back to Broadway in September).

Go see it. If you've ever thought about seeing Sweeney Todd or if you are looking for something good to see, this production is the cat's pajamas. You will most certainly be able to buy a ticket for any section of the theater you wish because there's always plenty of room.

This show has really penetrated my psyche. I constanly have tunes from the show running through my head and I've been reading an awful lot about the history (or the alleged history) of the actual (or the allegedly actual) Sweeney Todd.

I've been learning interesting things like the fact that for about 200 years barbers were barber-surgeons and studied corpses so they could perform minor operations, tooth extractions, amputations and bleedings in addition to their shaving and hair trimming responsiblities. It's believed that the first stories of Sweeney originated in Victorian fiction zines called Penny Dreadfuls. The stories are based on a real man who committed gruesome murders in his barber shop and the legend grew more horrible as the years went on feeding on public fears based on the barber-surgeon bailywick.

Regarding the music, I'm excited to have a chance to see Sondheim's work in context. In the past, when I've heard his works performed it's always been on a PBS broadcast of some concert featuring Broadway bigwigs belting out highlights from various shows. The performances are great but there's no continuity.

Watching this production, I feel like I finally understand why Sondheim is considered one of the greats of musical theater. I may have read somewhere that this is his best show but I don't know if that's true or not. I can tell you that the music and lyrics are genius and are a pleasure to see performed - especially by the likes of Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris. Of course everyone in the cast is really, really great.

I can't emphasize enough how much I think you absolutely need to see this show.

I'm fortunate enough to be working on it again next week. This past Sunday was my 16th viewing.

As much as I love the show, I may be getting a little oversaturated. I might actually bring a book with me to the theater next week although I am curious to see how Patti Lupone's replacement does. I overheard some ushers saying that Patti Lupone is taking a short leave to do Gypsy somewhere and that Judith Kay was coming in to subsititute.

I'm excited to see someone else in the role of Mrs. Lovett. And I think that's how Broadway gets you to keep coming back to see shows.

Usher appearing in Chicago is a perfect example of that. As many as I've seen that show, I want to see it now with Usher to see how interprets the role of the sleazy lawyer and opportunist, Billy Flynn. Will he be able to pull it off? Can he sing Broadway? Will he fit in to the show? Will he suck? Will he be great? The producers of Chicago are constantly putting in big names to keep that show alive - most recently Rita Wilson, wife of Tom Hanks. I wasn't too excited about her. I just assumed she's not that great. How can she be as good as Karen Ziemba or Bebe Neuwirth or Ann Reinking or Rachel Hess or Uta Lemper? I don't think it's possible.

It's late and I'm rambling. I've gone on longer than I wanted to about Sweeney or have I?

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