[MUSICAL REVIEW] Musical thriller `Sweeney Todd` a source of unexpected excitement

  • Published : Apr 5, 2010 - 20:56
  • Updated : Apr 5, 2010 - 20:56

The country`s musical industry is experimenting with a varied collection of musical genres to meet the demands of local audiences who are fed up with Broadway musicals full of love songs and happy endings.
Musical thriller "Sweeney Todd" is one such example of the industry trying to produce something new, with fresh and unexpected storylines, instead of just reviving big-name musicals like "Mamma Mia" or "Saturday Night Fever."
With its sensational plot, horrifying settings and grotesque musical numbers, the Korean adaptation of "Sweeny Todd" has definitely become the talk of the town. The musical is currently being staged at LG Arts Center, and runs through Oct. 14.
"Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is a Tony Award-winning musical from the book by Hugh Wheeler, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Based on the 19th century legend of Sweeney Todd, and the 1973 play by Christopher Bond, the musical debuted on Broadway in 1979.
<**1>The story begins with Sweeney Todd, also known as Benjamin Barker, returning to London after being sent away by Judge Turpin. The main character gets the help of a sailor, Anthony Hope. Later, he opens a barber shop above Mrs. Lovett`s Meat Pie Shop where she sells "the worst pies in London." After learning from Mrs. Lovett that his wife poisoned herself after being raped by Turpin and his daughter in Turpin`s ward, he vows revenge.
With the help of Mrs. Lovett, Todd kills all the people who have ever done him wrong, and hopes to be reunited with his daughter, Joanna. The two become conspirators in a dark plot that results in mass murder, booming business for Lovett`s shop, and, ultimately, tragedy.
What makes the musical so interesting is that it leads audiences to experience some very unexpected and exciting things.
The slicing of throats and the baking of human flesh into meat pies frequently take place in this radical musical -- a lot more than the throbbing kissing scenes that we are so used to. Lyrics fly along in the fast songs, and viewers are captivated by the amazing phenomenon of transporting dead bodies from the upper to the lower floor. Dramatic changes of scenery and detailed Victorian costumes add spice to the story of the vengeful barber.
Outstanding and sophisticated performances by the Korean cast make the musical even more special. The casts include a number of popular musical actors in Korea. Rising musical stars such as Ryu Jung-han and Yang Joon-mo play the roles of Sweeney Todd and Park Hae-mi, while Hong Ji-min does the cheerfully amoral Mrs. Lovett.
Alongside the musical, the tale of Sweeney Todd is likely to become super-popular later this year around the world, as the movie version directed by Tim Burton is scheduled to be released during the Christmas season. The movie stars Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd and Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett.
The show runs for two hours and 30 minutes. Tickets are 40,000 won to 100,000 won. For more information, call (02) 501-7888 or visit
By Cho Chung-un