Why Sweeney Todd is the best musical ever
What does one think when hearing about the musical Sweeney Todd? It could be a barber that shaved the faces of gentlemen who were never heard from again. It could be a man wronged by a corrupt justice system who had no choice but to vent his wicked longing for vengeance out onto an equally wicked world.
Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and the late Alan Rickman, Sweeney Todd was a film released in 2007 under the gothic and artistic direction of Tim Burton. It narrated the deadly tale of a barber named Benjamin Barker (Depp) who was shipped off to Botany Bay so that the villainous Judge Turpin (Rickman) could violate Barker’s wife. Benjamin escaped prison and adopted the name Sweeney Todd to exact his revenge upon the man who ruined his life and family.
Here is why 2007's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street remains the best musical to ever be made.
Note: This article reflects the author's views.
Why Sweeney Todd is the perfect musical
1) Johnny Depp was remarkable
Of course, anything that Johnny is a part of would be worth a look. Depp’s performance in Sweeney Todd was a stellar sight to behold. He was able to transform into a monster transfixed on vengeance that combined his mental anguish with enchanting singing.
Depp has always put an incredible amount of time and work into his characters and, after seeing this musical, it was impossible not to focus solely on him. In the scene where Todd sings the theme of Epiphany, Depp belted out his vocals with such gravitas and passion that his performance was a spectacle of sheer magnificence.
2) It balanced horror and beauty
When the movie was first released nearly 15 years ago, fans of the original musical were happy to find that the film adaptation had stayed true to its source material. Moreover, it was able to perfectly balance Todd’s bloodlust with a sweet eloquence that could only be seen in a Tim Burton film.
In the scene where Todd was first shaving Turpin, the two sang Pretty Women. In the course of the song, the two men were singing in a duet but singing about différent women. While Turpin spoke of his ward Johanna that he intended to marry, Todd spoke of his wife, whom he believed was dead. The song had a theme of beauty with an undertone of vengeance hidden in its midst.
3) The story was top-notch
The story is everything when making a film compelling in the eyes of the audience. This gothic musical had a story that broke hearts and aided in the contributions of German Expressionism. It had enough intricate layers to keep its audience engaged with the characters who were never exactly what they seemed.
In one instance, a street mountebank named Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen) was assumed to be an Italian, but was revealed to be a con and a cockney who was hired by Todd earlier in his career to sweep up hair.
It was a tale that took storytelling to new and darker heights that many films, in general, failed to live up to. It also used an element of surprise to create a shocking twist ending.
4) It was less juvenile than other musicals
One thing that has made this musical stand out from all of the others was the fact that this Stephen Sondhiem adaptation was a lot darker than most musicals. While many of those same musicals had a light-hearted and giddy tone, Sondheim’s masterclass in musicals was a shady and moody romp into the mental anguish of a psychopathic villain, which is what separated it from Tick, Tick...Boom.
Todd proved to be a villain corrupted by a more powerful villain with the aid of a more underhanded villain. Other musicals usually have some redeeming qualities, but this musical was filled to the brim with terrible people who had no altruistic traits whatsoever.
5) Revenge became the killer of all
In his quest to kill Alan Rickman's character, Todd’s fanatical ways ultimately became his undoing. He went on a killing spree and, in a sad ending, killed a beggar who later turned out be his wife - whom he believed had poisoned herself.
This enraged Todd and, as a result, he threw Mrs. Lovett in the oven. Soon after, Todd was killed by Toby, the young hand he took in to help around the shop. The story just showed that vengeance is what ruined all of the characters and proved that evil begets evil. It was a sentiment that only a few could comprehend.