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There’s a new barber in town, ‘Sweeney Todd’

October 19, 2012
By Tom LaVille ( , Times-Republican

One of the most unusual musicals ever presented on Broadway is now coming to the Orpheum Theater. This weekend the Orpheum Theatre will present "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" starring Johnny Depp and Helen Bonham Carter, and directed by Tim Burton.

This trio of creative artists have generated some of the most peculiar and dark films in the past 20 years. Burton and Depp have worked together on "Edward Scissorhands," "Ed Woods," "Sleepy Hollow," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Alice in Wonderland" and "Dark Shadows." The fact that they obviously like to work together seems to project itself in these aforementioned oddball movies. If you like this style or type of movie then you will enjoy "Sweeny Todd." It is offbeat and unbelievable.

To top off the peculiar quality of this film is the shocking idea that it is a musical. There are no real toe tappers as you may have found in previous Orpheum musicals, but the songs are presented in a dynamic and powerful way. The screenplay is by Josh Logan and the music by Hugh Wheeler. Wheeler's previous claim to fame was as the musical writer of "A Little Night Music."

This bizarre musical joins together the owner of a barber shop (Depp) and a woman (Carter) who owns a meat pie shop. Sweeney Todd opens the barber shop above her meat shop as a way to reap vengeance on certain people in Victorian London. With the help of the meat pie shop owner, Todd is successful in his revenge and you can use your imagination for the rest of the story.

Contrary to what you might believe, Todd isn't the villain in this movie. That role is brilliantly played by Alan Richman. Richman is one of my favorite actors, especially in his nastier roles. I first became a fan after seeing him as the high tech bank robber in "Die Hard." His villainous and despicable character has you siding with Todd in his revenge.

This is an "R" rated film because of its subject matter and some violence. It is an unusual film that I like seeing because of the trio of actors involved. If you are the type that likes to go to unusual films that offer a slanted view of life, then this may introduce you to the world of Burton/Depp movies.

The show times are 7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Visit the theatre for tours, or call the Orpheum Theater Center movie hotline at 641-844-5907 or visit


Tom LaVille is a retired Marshalltown drama and literature teacher. LaVille's Critic's Corner column appears Friday in the Times-Republican.



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