Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sweeney Little Xmas

Graphic: Original program from the Philadelphia tryout of Stephen Sondheim's ANYONE CAN WHISTLE, autographed by Lee Remick.

Probably Not Attending to SWEENEY TODD

One of the most reasoned reviews I’ve read of the current release of the Stephen Sondheim/Tim Burton Sweeney Todd is by Andy Klein in LA’s independent City Beat: “Have Yourself A Sweeney Little Christmas!” - Dec. 20-26, 2007.

At one point he comments “The unrealistic murders on stage have become tight close-ups of throats being slit, followed by geysers of blood and all-too-believably convulsive deaths. The first killing, of Pirelli, is more than a little disturbing in its in-your-face graphicness. Burton revels in the ugliness.” (I know this may actually induce many members of today’s audiences into the theaters).

Ultimately Klein recommends the film, though he laments (as I do) the loss of Angela Lansbury’s “dotty and craven” Mrs. Lovett: “Something delightful has been lost in the translation.”

Two letters in today’s LA Times also criticize the graphic but alleged “tongue-in-cheek” gore.

While I adore Sondheim and like some Burton (mostly, I admit, the stunning Main Title credit sequence in Mars Attacks and the delightful Nightmare Before Christmas holiday makeover of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion), I guess I’ll have to dream about (and wait for, while not holding my breath) a film version of the sublime Follies. This is a stage production that, with its flashbacks, shifting perspectives, spectacle and cinematic ambiance, would seem made for the movies. A dream film collaboration between Vincente Minnelli and Ken Russell with all the resources of MGM at its peak would be nice.

So, while I’m curious, with my admitted low tolerance for gore and ugly imagery I may have to pass on Sweeney (or simply experience its also admitted brilliance on CD, the ideal medium for most Sondheim scores).

I was always an impressionable child, too highly influenced for both better and worse by movies. This did not change as I got older and I still have trouble shaking disturbing cinematic images that seem to get wired into my brain. (I get queasy just looking at the ads fo the Saw series).

In the meantime LACMA is showing Neptune’s Daughter in January. I can’t wait cause, baby, it’s cold outside these days…….

BTW: Has anyone ever noticed that parts of the opening number in Anyone Can Whistle, “Me and My Town,” sung by Lansbury and a men’s chorus, sound exactly like a vintage 1940s Kay Thompson MGM vocal arrangement?


Monday, December 10, 2007

Rebirth Without the Rain

Photo: Firezone, Gaviota, Pacific coast, north of Santa Barbara Photo by/COPYRIGHT Ross Care, 2007

Inspite of the fact the much touted winter storm that blew through southern California last weekend brought little rain, bits of greenery, mostly chaparral, are emerging in the fire zone along route 101 on the coast near Gaviota. The eternal, hopeful resilience of nature (in spite of man's interference).