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Stage Door: "Sweeney Todd" & "My Old Lady"

In Stage Door, our semi-weekly live performance column, we cover theater news that's directly or merely ever-so-slightly connected to film and television... mostly because theater is heaven. If you can manage to see it.

Photos from Sweeney Todd the movie ought not to be read as an endorsement of actors who can't sing starring in musicals.

It is this blog's policy never to endorse Kickstarter projects because if you start, where do you stop? But since this one is about to be fully funded, I have to share my excitement. The Tooting Arts Club, a site specific theater company in London had a brilliant idea. They're staging a full production (with Stephen Sondheim's blessing) of Sweeney Todd in an actual old pie shop with help from the barber shop across the street in October. There are only 32 seats in the shop so tickets will be hard to come by. I'm tempted to buy a plane ticket just to see how they pull this off.  

Drag queens and old ladies after the jump...

I'll be reporting on a new Broadway show with an Oscar Best Picture connection soon but the only live performance I've been to recently was "Terminally Delightful" starring BenDeLaCreme. It was a fun solo show at the Laurie Beechman theater (through August 29th). The theater is underneath a restaurant but there are  so many drag queens on its stages throughout the year that I've come to picture endless subterranean floors underneath it like a bedazzled Hellmouth spitting out only famous queens in full regalia. BenDeLaCreme featured a bit too much reliance on RuPaul's Drag Race referencing for my tastes (just perform!) but she was funny and the stuff that veered into the fully theatrical like a split-identity dance number was excitingly off its rocker. 

And how's this this for a cross-media double dipping...

Israel Horovitz's My Old Lady which is coming to theaters in September 10th (we've already discussed the trailer) is also hitting the stage in Palm Beach from December 5th through January 4th. Oscar winner Estelle Parsons will play the lead role, the one everyone will soon refer to as 'the Maggie Smith part'. Parsons, who has always been a firecracker memorable actress for better (Rachel Rachel) and worse (Bonnie & Clyde), has been working a lot on stage recently including her Tony nominated performance in Velocity of Autumn and a touring production of August: Osage County (as awful matriarch Violet), is still going strong at 90 years young. Theater is not remotely as physically easy as acting for the camera so I don't know how she and Angela Lansbury do it but more power to them.

Have you ever seen a live performance of My Old Lady or Sweeney Todd 


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Reader Comments (11)

Seen live: Cariou/Lansbury & Cerveris/Lupone but not Hearn/Loudon, Gunton/Fowler, Stokes Mitchell/Baranski or Terfel/Thompson.

August 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Seen live: Cariou/Lansbury, Quilley/Hancock, Armstrong/McKenzie, Lupone/Ceveris and Ball/Staunton. I saw it in German once but I've blocked that one as well as a couple of regional productions. The Gate production (Dublin) is the one I wish I had seen but missed. Armstrong was my favorite Todd and Lansbury my favorite Lovett.

August 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Intriguing, Henry. I'm not familiar with Alun Armstrong's work at all.

August 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Paul: Armstrong usually plays slightly goofy, comic relief characters in film and tv but his stage work is another story altogether. Not quite as operatic as Cariou and far more believable than Ceveris (My least favorite portrayal although he sang it beautifully. I think the role benefits from less beauty actually.), and a good balance to McKenzie who can chew her way through a lot of co-stars (I saw her do Follies--chew, chew, chew and she was trying to chew Rigg off the stage.). Armstrong won the Olivier for Sweeney.

August 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Henry -- interesting. I loved Cerveris so much in the role (but maybe that's because his vocals are just so rich and nuanced with emotion. That is great acting through singing. (God he makes Johnny Depp sound pathetic, like he doesn't understand anything about the notes or the emotions in the song. I know i've said this before but i listened to the film soundtrack and the stage soundtrack back to back once and the difference in what gets across tonally and emotionally is like ridiculously 150% in favor of the real trained singers.)

August 26, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nat, I hear you, especially where Depp is concerned in the role. I was looking forward to what Burton would do with the piece, but so disappointed with the results.

There is no doubt that Cerveris has a beautiful voice but I felt the balance was off with the rest of the cast and too much of his emotion was coming though the sound with not enough physical involvement and I never bought him being able to kill anyone. Maybe if he had had a weaker or less dominate Lovett that LuPone to play opposite. That was what I loved most about Lansbury. It may be a lead role, but I never felt she was doing a star turn, just playing the character. None of the other Lovetts have pulled that off imho (Granted, it's very hard to do when it is a lead role as rich as Lovett.).

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I was not a big fan of the Doyle production: Although I was majorly impressed by the stagecraft and the ensemble work, it left me cold and I am usually a sucker for theater auteur mastery. But I just didn't buy the passions of the two leads, great as Cerveris sounded, and I wasn't at all happy with Lupone's vocal choices. (Not long after, she blew me away in Gypsy.)

I am told Hearn and Loudon were outstanding together.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Terfel/Thompson concert version airs on Live from Lincoln Center on Sept. 26 at 9:00 pm, PBS.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Thanks Pam!

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I saw Sweeny Todd with Landsbury & Cariou live. I have not seen the Lapone version live, but Angela Landsbury will always be the perfect Mrs. Lovett for me.
I love Alun Armstrong in his TV work, and think he would be an interesting choice.
The film version isn't the best musically, but it was interesting visually.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Thanks Pam. I saw Terfel do Peter Grimes with Renee Fleming. That man was magnificent.

I think New Tricks is still being played on the PBS stations in NY. Armstrong is in it doing his goofy old guy bit, but its a fun bit along with Amanda Redman (Dirty DeeDee from Sexy Beast) in the lead and Dennis Waterman. It's a fun ensemble of veterans making it all look easy.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

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