Alms for the Poor

Alms for the Poor

Last night while indulging my Project Runway obsession, a trailer for Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd took over the airwaves and giddiness ensued. Really, I was beyond excited by the prospect of running out to my local cineplex and shelling out $11 to see Johnny Depp as the infamous demon barber of Fleet Street. However, this morning my bubble of enthusiasm was abruptly burst. Let me explain: Today’s mail sack included a promo copy of the film’s soundtrack, which was immediately inserted into the player after shredding through the shrink-wrap. Expecting to hear something along the line of the piercing opening sonority from Jonathan Tunick’s original orchestration, I listened with mounting trepidation. About halfway through the organ prelude, I realized that my ears were not going to be blasted by any jarring timbres.

In fact, you could tell by the predictable swell in the music exactly where the opening title would dominate the movie screen. The music seemed safe, recognizable, with a clichéd touch of evil, but hardly sinister in a visceral sense. This was Sweeney-lite, all sharp edges sanded down, a mere Nescafé of Sondheim’s more raucous Broadway rendition. Then came the song “No Place Like London,” and the Disneyization of the music continued. To see if things might get a little ugly, or at least musically emote with the slightest touch of abandonment, I skipped ahead to “A Little Priest.” Nope. The score seems to be meticulously crafted to the point of being too glossy for my taste. I know I shouldn’t base my expectations on the original version, but it’s an inevitable human trait that’s difficult to suppress. That said, I’ll probably be in line at the cinema opening weekend. I’m sure that once onscreen Helena Bonham Carter will make me forget all about my nostalgia for Angela Lansbury—fingers crossed.

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One thought on “Alms for the Poor

  1. philmusic

    One looks in vain for Sondheim’ s name at the official Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd web site-its in the fine print -but perhaps the site is not yet complete. We will see. Of course one might ask how much creative influence Sondheim had in the making of this film, or even ask how much creative influence he “cared” to have. Anyway, there was a revival on ST on B’way that featured an all-electronic score and I don’t know any of the details of that.

    I am just happy that Tim Burton didn’t decide to have one of his buddies compose all new songs.

    Phil Fried


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