SWEENEY TODD on DVD: the Show or the Concert?

SWEENEY TODD

SWEENEY TODD

The question is simple: which of the two DVD versions of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd do you like better: the fully staged version with George Hearn and Angela Lansbury or the concert version with Hearn and Patti LuPone? For me, there’s no competition – the DVD with Hearn and Lansbury is my preference. Seeing a record of this superbly written, staged and performed production was a life-changing experience for me and I never tire of it.

Which is yours?

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15 Responses to SWEENEY TODD on DVD: the Show or the Concert?

  1. Reeses says:

    I prefer the in concert version by a fair margin. The main reason was the costumes from the full show. I hate them. They were way way too over the top. The concert version with its minimal costuming added an element of gritty realism that totally sold it for me. The costumes in the full show I thought distracted from the tangibility of the characters. They became caricatures and you couldn’t connect with them as well. I also liked the supporting cast better in the concert version. No one but George Hearn could do Sweeney, however.

  2. Uber Goober says:

    The DVD of the actual production is not the original cast, nor is it the full show. But I’d have to agree with the fact that some of it is a little over the top. Maybe not quite the way you described it, but it’s just not as tight and together as I think it should be, especially the ensemble. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the concert nearly as many times as the Tour cast DVD, but I still find them hard to compare. I enjoy the characterizations better seeing an actual show. Often it’s easier to get in to it with sets, props, etc. Same with the actors. In the concert, I didn’t see all of the actors getting in to it as much as I would’ve liked. George Hearn I didn’t feel was entirely there in concert. His vocal performance was amazing, as usual. But I couldn’t say the same for the acting. As for Patti LuPone, seeing her do the character was an interesting new approach, but I prefer Angela’s interpretation. But other performances are better on one, and not the other. On both sides. There’s not one DVD where ALL of the people are amazing.

    I’m still undecided. I should go watch the Concert again, haven’t done that in a while. But still, I can’t decide. They’re different enough so that a comparison just isn’t possible for me. If the Tour DVD was the full show without cuts, and the ensemble was tighter with their music and differently staged, and better makeup, I’d probably have to go with seeing the actual show as opposed to a concert. But since it’s not that way, I just couldn’t decide.

  3. Dawn says:

    By far the full staging is better, although I love having the Judge’s “Mea Culpa” on the concert. Hearn is in both luckily. He is a genius, plus no one compared to Angie as Mrs. Lovett.

  4. Ghost says:

    If the older DVD had Len Cariou this would be a harder question. I think it was rather unlucky that Hearn is on both DVDs. His performance is pretty similar on both. It would have been great if:

    1. The Tour cast DVD had had Len Cariou; or
    2. The Concert DVD had had Bryn Terfel (as originally planned).

    Hearn is great, but I prefer Cariou, and I’m pretty damn sure Terfel would have been excellent.

  5. Perogo Ness says:

    I don’t know. Len Cariou’s acting must have been out of this world to be that much better then Hearn. Cariou is very disappointing voice wise compared to Hearn.

  6. Uber Goober says:

    I definitely prefer Hearn in terms of vocal quality, but I have yet to see Len Cariou act the part, so I can’t make any judgments there, since i know the CD isn’t the performance he gave on Broadway. But I still think Hearn is one amazing actor/singer.

  7. Ghost says:

    In many places I prefer Cariou’s singing. His voice is incredibly haunting, in for example “No place like London” or “Barber and his Wife”. The fact that he actually sings the songs is a lot wiser than Hearn’s sobbing and screaming. Cariou played the part in a lot more subtle way. That really added to the impact of “Epiphany”. Hearn sounds like a crazy maniac all the time so the impact isn’t that big. Most people who have seen both performers, highly prefer Cariou. Hearn’s does have a better range and is a better singer overall, though. But let’s not make this into a Cariou vs. Hearn argument.

  8. Save Ferris says:

    I thought, on a whole, Hearn was a way better Sweeney. The in-concert version was also lacking, I thought, in many ways. Patti Lupone was a really disappointing Lovett, and Angela Lansbury and George Hearn were fantastic together. To me, there’s no comparison.

  9. Uber Goober says:

    I wish there were more recordings with other people on them to get a nice plethora of Sweeney’s to listen to.

  10. The Tink says:

    Reeses wrote:
    They were way way too over the top.

    That’s the point. It’s a large scale chamber musical with a melodrama feel. That’s how it’s written, that’s how it works best.

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