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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street OST

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street OST

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

WHO knew Johnny Depp could sing? Or Alan Rickman or Sacha Baron Cohen for that matter. Discovering just how good they are is one of the many delights of listening to the soundtrack for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – whether you’ve seen the film or not!

Featuring music from Stephen Sondheim’s timeless Broadway masterpiece, as adapted for Tim Burton’s violent movie, the soundtrack succeeds in both vividly recapturing the film’s brilliance as well as proving that Johnny Depp can excel at pretty much anything he sets his mind to.

Any singer worth their salt will admit that Sondheim isn’t the easiest songwriter to master vocally. His music is renowned for the complex polyphony of the vocal parts, such as the angular harmonies and intricate melodies. Most of his songs require a lot of work from the performer that really stretches them vocally. You can’t just get by.

Depp, Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter and the rest of the cast overcome such challenges in suitably impressive fashion to inject fresh verve into the songs. It helps, of course, if you’ve seen the film and can recall the Burton-esque images that accompany the songs.

But there’s still plenty of joy if you haven’t. Depp’s vocals have been favourably compared to David Bowie as well as (by IndieLondon’s Lizzie Guilfoyle) Paul Nicholas. He somehow manages to imbue his own charisma into the Cockney tones of Todd, sing-talking some moments but bursting forth into impressive song whenever Sondheim requires.

Carter also displays a keen Cockney accent for her numbers, while Rickman is typically classy as villain of the piece, Judge Turpin. Elsewhere, there’s some established theatrical voices to lend them a helping hand. Both Jamie Campbell Bower and Jayne Wisener are ‘veterans’ of the children’s charity Music Theatre 4 Youth, while Laura Michelle Kelly is a prominent West End performer, having shone in the likes of My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins and [currently] The Lord Of The Rings.

The songs, themselves, combine a classical theatrical feel with some witty lyrics that Depp and co clearly relish. Highlights come thick and fast. No Place Like London is an early introduction to the darkness that permeates Burton’s lavish movie, while Carter has fun lamenting the state of her pies in The Worst Pies In London.

Sacha Baron Cohen injects some OTT Italian gusto into The Contest, which provides a comic highlight in the movie itself, while young Ed Sanders injects a great deal of charisma into Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir, another comic number that Depp and Carter conclude by describing as “piss”!

Memorable, too, is Depp and Rickman’s rousing duet on Pretty Women, reprised in several forms, while Carter and Depp bring comedy and passion to A Little Priest, when the ingredients of Mrs Lovett’s pies are cleverly revealed.

For romantics, the various interpretations of Johanna are beautifully conveyed, with Jamie Campbell Bower excelling throughout. And for sheer comedy value, By The Sea brings some technicolour light relief from the darkness of Todd’s London that’s reflected in Carter’s more positive vocal delivery.

All in all, then, Depp and company have managed to construct a soundtrack that works just as effectively on its own as with the movie. It’s as fun, moving and rousing as the film itself – and a damn-near essential companion for anyone who ventures to the cinema to see it (as well they should!).

Download picks: No Place Like London, My Friends, Johanna, Pretty Women, A Little Priest, By The Sea

Track listing:

  1. Opening Title
  2. No Place Like London
  3. The Worst Pies in London
  4. Poor Thing
  5. My Friends
  6. Green Finch & Linnett Bird
  7. Alms Alms
  8. Johanna
  9. Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir
  10. The Contest
  11. Wait
  12. Ladies and Their Sensitivities
  13. Pretty Women
  14. Epiphany
  15. A Little Priest
  16. Johanna
  17. God, That’s Good!
  18. By the Sea
  19. Not While I’m Around
  20. Final Scene