While Tim Burton was making the movie of “Sweeney Todd,” the show’s composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim (pictured here), was publicly supportive of the venture but privately steeling himself against disappointment. What if the film turned out to have the quality of the “Little Night Music” screen adaptation? What if it was so Burton-ized that the musical would be unrecognizable? But over the past couple of weeks, Sondheim has been telling friends that his private worries have now evaporated. He absolutely loves Burton’s movie, due for release on Christmas Day. (Here’s my suggestion for advertising copy: “Watch your dad slice the turkey; then go see Sweeney slice some throats.”) He says that Johnny Depp gives a terrific, chilling performance, and that Helena Bonham Carter portrays Mrs. Lovett not in the bouncy, comedic manner of many stage interpretations but as an affecting, overripe whore.
And if “Sweeney” queens don’t like what Burton has done? Too bad: if the movie’s to be a hit, it has to reach well beyond Broadway babies. (They’ll see the movie regardless.) With just such a marketing goal in mind, makers of the just-released trailer (click here to see it) barely give a hint that this is one of the 20-century’s musical masterpieces. Let the brickbats begin flying!