Theater November 2017
Stephen Sondheim’s sharp edges
On the career of Stephen Sondheim and the current production of Sweeney Todd at the Barrow Street Theatre, New York.
Skepticism overtook me when I heard that Sweeney Todd (at the Barrow Street Theatre) was being given the stripped-down minimalist treatment. My first experience of it, on an outdoor stage in Holland Park, London, in the summer of 1996, remains one of the most transcendent three hours of my life. I love the show too much to see it diminished, just as I don’t want to see Lawrence of Arabia on an iPhone. Yet the feisty little production playing downtown, with only eight actors, three musicians, and one set, is an unmitigated pleasure. Stephen Sondheim’s magnificent score contains some of the most beautiful songs ever written for the stage—“Kiss Me,” “Johanna,” “Wait,” “Pretty Women”—and they’re all as enchanting as ever, while the wordplay of “A Little Priest” and “The Worst...
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