Whatcha doin' with that blade, Johnny? Johnny Depp stars in Tim Burton's film adaptation of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The Stephen Sondheim musical started out as a Broadway production under the direction of Harold Prince (photo below). Copyrighted film photo by Leah Gallo for Dreamworks Pictures.
We had the honor of talking to legendary Broadway producer and director Harold Prince yesterday. The reason for our chat was the upcoming engagement of The Phantom of the Opera at the Kentucky Center for the Arts, and Phantom's upcoming 20th Anniversary on Broadway. But another iconic Broadway show Prince directed was Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which opened in 1979. So, with Tim Burton's film version of Sweeney set to open today, we had to ask Prince about the movie. Here's what he had to say about that film, the Phantom movie, and movie musicals in general:
"I have seen it, and it's very good, and it's gotten very good reactions, good press so far. I hope it does well. I'm not sure how well the Phantom film did. But taking something from stage to film is very difficult, because they are different media. What amazes an audience on stage, astonishes them, does not necessarily astonish them in a film, where you have laboratories working, and you can make effects in a lab. What you see in a theater is happening on a stage right in front of you, and it can be quite surprising, in the best sense. In a film, people are not so surprised by those effects, so you have to substitute something else for them.
"Not that many stage musicals become wonderful on film."
We asked what he thought made Sweeney Todd work:
"They stuck with the story. Mr. Logan (John Logan), who adapted it, made some interesting cuts, appropriate ones, and he did some interesting juxtapositions and added some things and tightened it so it's a humdinger of a thriller. It's a Grand Guignol. My production was a larger palette that dealt with the Industrial Revolution and things like that. This is just a story told to charge you. It's surprising and bloody, and the people are good, and it's what the French used to call Grand Guignol."