A Bloody Powerful “Sweeney Todd” Live from Lincoln Center on PBS-TV [Berkshire on Stage]
Preview and review by Larry Murray
A miscarriage of justice in London led the barber Benjamin Barker to spend years in an Australian penal colony doing hard labor for a crime he did not commit. When he returned he changed his name to Sweeney Todd, reopened his barber shop on Fleet Street, and looked for an opportunity to even the score with Judge Turpin who raped his wife and sent him away. In the meantime, he began to slash the throats of customers, sending their dead bodies down a chute where they became the filling for Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies. It was a happy business arrangement. Her veal pies were a hit.
A few years ago, we speculated as to whether Sweeney Todd actually existed. It has been one of our most popular articles. Now we look at how it works on tape, on television. For theater goers, PBS-TV (WMHT-TV) is the place to be at 9pm on Friday (September 26).
In the hands of composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd became an almost operatic story of murder and cannibalism, one which won him two Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Score. Who could possibly criticize it? Certainly not anyone who has seen it.