Sweeney Todd-In Concert (2001)

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Released 2-Jul-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 132:17
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (78:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Lonny Price
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring George Hearn
Patti LuPone
Davis Gaines
Victoria Clark
Timothy Nolen
John Aler
Lisa Vroman
Neil Patrick Harris
Stanford Olsen
Case Click
RPI $34.95 Music Stephen Sondheim


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, the credits roll over the audience ovation.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    It is part of being a DVD reviewer that sometimes you have to view discs that you probably would not have selected voluntarily. There are also times when you make this involuntary selection - and make a mistake. What I thought I was getting here was Sweeney Todd, the Canadian rock band in which Bryan Adams made his musical start. Imagine my surprise when I laid eyes on the package to find that I in fact had Sweeney Todd: In Concert, the "concert" performance of the well-respected Stephen Sondheim's musical of the same name - a disc that I would not have selected if it had been the last disc on earth! It is therefore a happy accident that, after watching Sweeney Todd: In Concert, I found that I had thoroughly enjoyed the experience and will in the future select this type of material with anticipation.

    The musical Sweeney Todd premiered in 1979, but the story on which it was based originated sometime around the 1840s. As is often the case with a story that is written and re-written many times over the years, it often changed, but the basics remained the same: Sweeney Todd (a.k.a The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street) is a barber who offs his clients in order to provide meat for the pie-maker who rents the store below his shop. The particular novel adaptation of the Sweeney Todd story on which Sondheim based his musical is apparently the only adaptation to throw love and revenge into the mix, and to give Sweeney any reason for his acts. In this "concert" performance, we (apparently) get a cut-down version of the musical, retaining the musical numbers but losing much of the interconnecting dialogue. The trade-off, however, is that instead of a small "musical" orchestra, the music for this disc is provided by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (of Metallica: S&M fame), and fortunately it seems that it is the music that is the more important. From the comments I have read, watched, and been told of - all by people far more knowledgeable in these things than I - Sweeney Todd is considered to be one of, if not the, greatest musical works of the 20th century. High praise indeed.

    Being an "in-concert" performance, there is little in the way of props, and no sets whatsoever. The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra take pride of place, spread out in groups across the stage, while the actors' areas consist of walkways between and in front of the orchestra. To my mind, as a "non-fan" of stage musicals, this actually helps the suspension of disbelief - the fact that it does not appear real seems to have the opposite effect and enhances the reality. The actors, for the most part, dress in black, and this gives the entire production a dark tone, and helps to highlight those characters that show colour.

    The quality of the performance is flawless - the actors are very good, especially George Hearn as Sweeney and Patti LuPone as the morally vacuous pie-maker, and the music is brilliantly played by a top symphony orchestra. It is also somewhat amusing to see Doogie Howser - A.K.A. Neil Patrick Harris - sing (he plays Tobias Ragg). Overall, I found the performance to be both enjoyable and engaging - highly recommended, even to those who think they may not like this style of performance.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer presented for Sweeney Todd is of a very high quality. Produced for television in 2001, it was most likely sourced from digital video, and as such transfers to DVD very well indeed.

    Presented at 1.33:1, this transfer is not 16x9 enhanced. As this was produced for free to air television in the US, it is likely that this is the intended aspect ratio (additionally, the production booth only features traditional 4:3 displays), and there is certainly no indication otherwise from the composition of the shots.

    The transfer is very sharp, presenting every detail without trouble. Shadow detail is also excellent, as the darker parts of the stage (including the orchestra) are still clearly visible - even to the point where it is possible to see the performers on the darkened areas of the stage rearranging their positions. In this regard, the transfer represents excellently the feeling of actually being there at the concert. There is no low level noise present at all.

    The colours are excellent, handling well the contrasts between the darker portions of the stage and the few bright flashes of costume there are. Pleasingly, the stage lighting causes no problems at all, appearing very natural, and never flaring.

    There are no compression or film artefacts at all in this transfer. The only artefact present in the entire transfer are a few minor instances of aliasing, such as on the music stand at 26:58, but they are all minor, and are few and far between.

    There are no subtitles present on this disc.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change occurring at 78:12 between Chapters 25 and 26. It is well placed at the intermission, and is really the only place a layer change could be located and not interrupt the production.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Importantly for a musical presentation, the audio transfer is of an extremely high standard.

    There are three audio tracks present on this disc, all containing the original English soundtrack. It is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps) and DTS 5.1 (at 768 Kbps), as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (at 224 Kbps).

    Vocals are clear and easy to understand at all times, but never at the expense of the orchestral score. The mixing is absolutely spot-on, and the depth and breadth of the orchestral score is amazing. All soundtracks handle the music equally well, demonstrating very good dynamic range. The louder moments are very well replicated. As the orchestra goes into full swing, the crash of sound is almost breathtaking, and regardless of the soundtrack the "whistle" noise every time Sweeney takes another victim rips through one's head. The only real problem is that during the lower-volume segments, there is a small amount of hiss. While it is only occasionally audible, every time it occurs it is noticeable. Musically, no soundtrack has the edge over any other - it was impossible to find a difference between the DTS and Dolby Digital in a direct comparison - and all do their jobs equally well. Regardless of the speaker setup, or preference for musical listening, it is possible to get the most out of this disc.

    Audio sync is spot-on thoughout the transfer.

    The surround channels of the 5.1 mixes are used quite subtly, mostly being responsible for crowd noise. They do carry some instruments, but in the most part it is such that the surrounds are producing what really amounts to "ambient" orchestra sounds, such as could be expected to bounce of the side and rear walls of the auditorium. The end result is very much like sitting right in the middle of the audience, rather than is often the case where the listener is really placed on stage. Obviously the stereo track does not have this benefit, although for musical purists it may still be the preferred option.

    All soundtracks have a goodly amount of bass, although the stereo soundtrack does not quite have as much as the two tracks with dedicated LFE channels. Both 5.1 tracks contain good, well defined bass and use it very effectively to back up the larger moments during the score.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There is very little in the way of extras presented here, although with the length and nature of the feature, this is not particularly surprising.

Menu

    The menu is static, presented at 1.33:1 (not 16x9 enhanced) and features Dolby Digital 2.0 audio accompaniment.

Featurette - Making of (25:09)

    Presented at 1.33:1 (not 16x9 enhanced), and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this feature is concerned more with the gestation of the concert version of Sweeney Todd, not so much the musical in general. It is well presented and written, and is of reasonably high interest level.

Filmographies

    This section features extremely detailed filmographies for four people involved with the production, being Stephen Sondheim, Patti LuPone, George Hearn, and Lonny Price.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Detailed information on the international versions of this title is hard to come by, however it appears as if there are both R1 and R2 versions of Sweeney Todd: In Concert that are largely identical to our local version. The only difference is that the R2 version may not have the Dolby surround track found on both the R1 and R4 (interestingly enough, both the R1 and the R4 appear to have been manufactured at the same DVD plant, so that could be an explanation for the R2 being different). Given the available information, I would call this an even result.

Summary

    Sweeney Todd: In Concert is an enjoyable and interesting experience. The music and singing are both excellent, the story is interesting, and the presentation well thought out. It is presented on a very good quality DVD.

    The video quality is excellent - there are no significant problems at all.

    The audio quality is also good, providing an excellent experience regardless of the soundtrack chosen.

    The extras are rather limited, however given the rest of the disc, it really is not that much of a let-down.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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