Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sweeney Todd and a few famous faces

My last show in London was Sweeney Todd.  For those of you unfamiliar with the show or it's plot, the show follows the barber, Benjamin Barker, who had been unlawfully sent to Australia under false charges so a judge, Turpin, could get to Barker's wife, Lucy.  Well, Benjamin Barker returns about 15 years later to find everything a hot mess in his life.  Lucy is gone, and Judge Turpin has taken in their young daughter, Johanna, as his ward.  Barker changes his name to Sweeney Todd and establishes himself as a barber once again with the help of Mrs. Lovett with only revenge on the mind.  The music is by Stephen Sondheim, and it is loosely based on a real story.  I've already talked about Sweeney Todd twice, once the same day I saw Wicked when my friend and I hunted down his barber shop, and again when I saw one of the penny dreadfuls with the story of Sweeney Todd in it at the British Library.  I'm very familiar with the movie, it's one of my favorites, but I was extremely excited to see the show.

What made this production of the show so special was that it is a very limited run, only about two months.  The cast has two fairly prominent names as the lead roles as well.  First, Michael Ball played Sweeney Todd.  Michael Ball is a fairly famous stage actor.  He was the original Marius in Les Miserables, along with the second Raoul in Phantom of the Opera, Edna Turnblad in Hairspray and various other smaller plays and musicals.  Below is a video of Michael's gorgeous performance of "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables" from Les Miserables.

Michael played Sweeney Todd as more of an angry figure, rather than how Johnny Depp played him in the movie as more of a little mentally unhinged.  Michael's Sweeney Todd was furious at Judge Turpin for what he had done, and you could tell that from his performance.

In the role of Mrs. Lovett was Imelda Staunton.  For any Harry Potter fans, you're probably thinking to yourself, I know I know that name.  Well, Imelda played Dolores Jane Umbridge in the fifth and seventh Harry Potter movies.

On my bucket list was to meet a cast of Harry Potter, and I had a feeling London would be the ideal place to achieve this goal.  I definitely wasn't expecting it to be Imelda Staunton, but I'm definitely not complaining.  Imelda played Mrs. Lovett as completely obsessed with Sweeney Todd and then a little panicky at how things turn out as the show progresses.  She did a good job, although I'm a huge fan of Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Mrs. Lovett in the movie (another Harry Potter cast member as Bellatrix Lestrange), so it's hard for anyone to really top that performance in my opinion.

I couldn't find a lot of good promotional videos for Sweeney Todd, but this one is a pretty good one.  It's short, but you get to hear Imelda and Michael sing an incredibly important song called "A Little Priest," so please enjoy.

After the show, of course, I just had to get to the stage door, so my friend and I bolted immediately after the curtain call to get to the stage door.  I always feel bad for the lesser-known actors when they're in a show with fairly famous actors.  I mean, they have to know that the main reason people are coming to the show and the stage door is not to get their autographs but rather the more famous actors.  Even so, I did get Judge Turpin and his little henchman's autograph.  Everyone was waiting for Michael and Imelda to come out though.  As soon as Michael came out, I rushed over to him to get an autograph.  I turned back to my friend to get her to come over and take a picture of us, and she was freaking out, waving me over and mouthing "come here NOW!"  I couldn't figure out what in the world she was doing until it finally hit me, Imelda had come out.  I rushed over right away since there were still a bunch of people with Michael.  Now, while Imelda had been on stage, I kept thinking "wow, she's really short," and I was going to be VERY upset if I found her to be just as tall as me or only a little bit shorter.  Thankfully, I guess, she was significantly shorter than me, around five feet tall.  I didn't really have time to be star struck, I was walking towards my friend, and I looked over, and there was Imelda.  She was very nice, and there wasn't as many people around her as I thought there would be.  I barely had time to be star struck though, and all I could really get out was, "I'm such a huge fan," nothing else.  Luckily, she was so wrapped up in everything that she didn't even notice the shirt I was wearing.  In preparation for leaving, I packed up most of my clothes, leaving in my dresser only enough shirts to get me through the week.  Not paying attention, I pulled on my shirt from the Warner Brothers Studio Harry Potter tour with "Harry Potter" blazoned across the chest in huge letters.  Well, this wasn't intentional at all, and I was aware of what shirt I was wearing since I went to an evening prayer service at Westminster Abbey and thought it was funny that I was going to a prayer service wearing a Harry Potter shirt.  I didn't put it all together, however, until someone made a comment at the theatre, and I kept having to assure people that it wasn't intentional (although I kept getting teased about it).  I assure you, it really wasn't intentional, and, luckily, Imelda Staunton didn't seem to notice and make a comment about it.

After Imelda, I went back to get Michael's autograph.  Not only did I get an autograph, but I got a photo with him as well.  This was a huge dream come true for me, Les Miserables is one of my absolute favorite shows in the world, and no one else has ever done as good a job as Marius.  I was also thrilled to see that Michael had a phenomenal sense of humor.  My friend took my camera to take this picture, but she accidentally turned it off, so she asked me, "How do you turn it back on?"  Michael, with his arm around me, waiting patiently for the photo, said, "I usually start with the power button."  Just the fact that Michael Ball was joking around with me and my friend was enough to make me beyond happy, so the smile you see in this photo is 100% genuine, not a fake "smile for the camera" type of smile.

As you can see, it was a highly successful night.  I got Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton's autograph and got to see a wonderful show.

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