Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Playing Sweeney Todd

Tonight I'm playing Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and reading Stephen Soundheim's lyrics. Act One is just over and I've leapt to my feet.
I can say I've always loved Broadway show tunes. I heard them at home as a boy. Dad had joined the Columbia Record Club, or one like it, and the Rogers and Hammerstein sang out from our mahogany living room in Herbert.
Musical theatre as an art form, however, didn't sink in until I got hooked on Mary Poppins at Globe Theatre two years ago, when I was retiring from Luther, launching Hillsdale Book, and writing A Round for Fifty Years: a History of Regina's Globe Theatre. Working on the book during the rehearsal period of the show, I became so inspired by the excellence of cast and crew that I built in a Mary Poppins diary into the book, making of point of finishing the first draft of the complete text on opening night.
Something like that happened again during the recent run of The Little Mermaid at Globe, for which I was hired to do a live audio commentary, delivered via mic and earphones to vision-impaired patrons. I felt as if I had a small stake in the delivery of the show. But more than that, I fell in love with the cast--the brilliance of their work as singers and dancers and actors, the genial hand of Stephanie Graham as Choreographer and Director.
Here's the kicker: I was deeply moved by these performances. As in, to tears. Such shows are products of the Disney musical theatre machine but high-end products, artfully composed, that sent me trembling into the night, wondering where I'd been.
So I've decided to write a musical. I might as well say it. It will take a long time. Lots of time to listen and study and write. 
Hence my viewing of Newsies (Broadway hit, 2011, also a Disney product) on film at the Cineplex last Saturday. Original Broadway cast. It was stunning. Think Brando, think Baryshnikov. And they could sing.
And kicker of kickers, tonight I played Act One of Sweeney Todd, with Len Cariou as the barber and Angela Lansbury as his co-conspirator. (Spoiler: he slits their throats upstairs, she serves them in pies downstairs.) Unfuckinbelievably good, this show. 
I'm trying to learn why all these shows--and a shout out to Kinky Boots, which I saw in Toronto on '15--move me so. I'm teaching myself.