“Sweeney Todd” With Emma And Bryn

Yes, she can sing. That’s the first thing you should know about the “Sweeney Todd” concert given last night by the New York Philharmonic starring Emma Thompson as Mrs. Lovett and Bryn Terfel in the title role. It shouldn’t be a surprise: is there anything Emma can’t do? One of her Oscars, don’t forget, is for writing a movie (“Sense and Sensibility”) and in fact she co-wrote the “Annie” remake which just dropped its first trailer. Emma got her start in musical theatre (“Me and My Girl,” in London) and has been singing occasionally since. But nothing challenged her like Mrs. Lovett. To be honest, her low notes were better than the high. But she acted up a storm: which means that “Best Pies In London” was spectacular. She didn’t convey the words as clearly as the role’s originator, Angela Lansbury, but it’s hard to compare fairly as the sound at Avery Fisher Hall’s vast orchestra section isn’t the same as the closer sound of a Broadway theatre. As for Bryn, I’ve heard him in better voice. But he’s done Sweeney many times and his experience showed. Virtually all Sweeneys since the original Len Cariou lack danger: not Bryn. You really believe he would slit your throat soon as look at you. Hearing Sondheim’s score (the Master was in the house, of course) played by a symphony was bracing and lush. The surprise performer was Audra McDonald as the Beggar Woman. She was first-rate though doesn’t, as you Sondheim freaks know, have a big number. The NY Phil does “Sweeney” four more times through the weekend. Be there. (Last night, tout le monde certainly was — even Meryl.)

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