When my elder brother left home for college, I remember thinking that the appropriate response to such a life-changing (especially-for-me) event should probably include a tear or two. I mean my mom had been bawling her fucking eyes out weeks in advance, and I could tell that even my impossibly stoic father was a little unnerved standing there in the driveway watching Kenley load up his â€™86 Buick station wagon with bulk Ramen and frozen pizzas. I myself did not cry though. Why? â€˜Cause I ainâ€™t no bitch, thatâ€™s why.
Granted I was more than a wee bit of a drama queer and had just started playing trumpet in the marching band, but I definitely was not gonna cry. Unless an errant Nerf ball hits them square in the nuts or some money-grubbing Jezebel makes off with half of their GBV records and porno mags, real men are otherwise physiologically incapable of crying. Crying never makes the situation any better â€“ only whiskey can do that. Besides, now that K-Dog was outta the picture – and more importantly, left behind the better part of his CD collection (in ascending order of importance: early Aerosmith, Pixies, The Replacements, Bowie, Pavement, late Beatles) – maybe I might find something else to do with my time other than gay it up in My Fair Lady and try to play higher than Maynard Ferguson. And I most certainly did. I soon realized that any song which requires you to learn even the faintest trace of choreography isnâ€™t worth knowing at all. (Years later, the week before my degree recital at USC, I would come to a similar conclusion â€“ if you canâ€™t plug it in an amp, it isnâ€™t really an instrument either.) Jazz hands and hash marks aside, I still got as giddy as a Gilbert & Sullivan gavotte when I heard that 21 jump hunk Johnny Depp would be playing the Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Tim Burtonâ€™s take on Stephen Sondheimâ€™s spin of Christopher Bondâ€™s Sweeny Todd.
In a casting coup not regularly seen in the whole live stage to overdubbed silver thing, Helena Bonham Carter will portray Deppâ€™s accomplice Mrs. Lovett, Alan Rickman will play the evil Judge Turpin, and Borat himself Sacha Baron Cohen will no doubt yuck it up more than I did nearly a decade ago in the minor-ish role of Signor Adolfo Pirelli â€“ Sweenyâ€™s flamboyant â€œhair-cuttingâ€ rival.
More populist Wozzeck or Peter Grimes than your typical 42nd Street fare, Sweeny Todd – the musical, not that Juno glam band with Nick Gilder and Bryan Adams – remains the absolute finest, most forward-thinking piece in the entire Sondheim catalog. Theatre fags and their accompanying hags will always point to his lyrics for West Side Story, but with music by Bernstein, dancinâ€™ and direction by Jerome Robbins and a book by Arthur Laurents, thatâ€™s just too many queens…even for Broadway. Pretty much all musical plots are ridiculous and far-fetched, but itâ€™s asking a whole hell of a lot of suspended disbelief what with that Jets vs. Sharks malarkey. Donâ€™t get me wrong, Iâ€™ll see Control and Iâ€™m Not There first, but only because Burtonâ€™s film doesnâ€™t come out â€˜til X-mas time.