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The Wonderful and Surprising History of Sweeney Todd: The Life and Times of an Urban Legend

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Wonderful and Surprising History of Sweeney Todd: The Life and Times of an Urban Legend.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Robert L Mack(Author)

    Book details

The tales surrounding Sweeney Todd's notorious barber shop in London's Fleet Street have entertained generations of audiences and have made Todd himself one of the most famous - or perhaps notorious - characters in the city's history. The Wonderful and Surprising History of Sweeney Todd traces the fortunes of Todd's narrative from its earliest 'proper' appearance as a Victorian 'penny blood' in 1846-47, and then as a popular melodrama on the stage, through to its twentieth-century manifestation in film, ballet, musicals, and opera up to current and future productions, including the forthcoming Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film version of Stephen Sondheim's 1979 Broadway masterpiece. Each successive generation has found a compelling fascination in Sweeney Todd's themes of avarice, ambition, desire, appetite, retribution, justice, and cannibalism.  Following in the footsteps of the myth, this fascinating book takes the reader on a journey from the roots of the story in the alleyways and pie-shops of Victorian London to its modern incarnations on stage, screen and in popular culture.

There is seemingly nothing on the subject of the tale of Sweeney Todd -- from its roots in reality, to its finding its way into folklore and subsequently literature, and then onto innumerable stages and the screen -- which Robert L. Mack has not explored. It is an immensely detailed and far-reaching book that might be considered the last word in program notes to Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's stage musical and its movie version directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. -- Martin Rubin, Los Angeles Times

2.5 (7304)
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Book details

  • PDF | 400 pages
  • Robert L Mack(Author)
  • Continuum; First Edition edition (17 Jan. 2008)
  • English
  • 2
  • Poetry, Drama & Criticism

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Review Text

  • By G.C. on 6 September 2011

    First, the good part: this book is an excellent review of the sources of the urban legend of Sweeney Todd. While Mack doesn't state it so baldly in so many words, it is evident that there was no "Sweeney Todd" historical real person. However, Mack also acknowledges implicitly that the legend will probably still persist among Britishers that there *really* was a Sweeney Todd, but at least the book is on record to indicate otherwise. Mack does a splendid job of tracing the roots of the legend through Sweeney-like criminal stories in France, as well as the metaphysical aspects of the story in the development of London and the Industrial Revolution. His book stops just as the Tim Burton film of Sondheim's musical, with Johnny Depp in the title role, was about to go into production. It will be interesting if Mack produces a revised edition down the line to incorporate discussion of the film, and any new research.Now, the more nit-picky part: if there is to be a second edition, several errors need to be fixed, such as misspellings of noted artists such as these:1. The actor Ronald Colman's last name is misspelled as "Coleman".2. The character of Alfred Doolittle from "My Fair Lady" is misspelled as "Dolittle".3. The conductor Charles Mackerras' last name is misspelled as "Mackarras".In addition, there is a major factual howler about the director of the 1966 film of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", where Mack states the director as Melvin Frank. In fact, the film's director was Richard Lester.One inconsistency between the text and the (very useful) Appendix on the "Genealogy, History and Chronology" of Sweeney Todd is that with respect to the 1928 film, the actress Zoe Palmer is indicated as having portrayed Mrs. Lovett in the main text, but in the appendix, is listed as having played Johanna. This inconsistency needs to be corrected.But quibbles aside, once past these (and the occasionally heavy academic-ish tone), this book again makes a very informative introduction to this fictional urban legend.

  • By SLW on 13 June 2014

    Robert Mack has clearly spent a lot of time on this, for which he is to be applauded.I have to say though that I believe he goes to far in looking for significance in the events and characters in the tale of Sweeney Todd. For example, "Thornhill's name itself suggests the gratuitously imposed pain and martyrdom ('thorn') and altered eminence ('hill') of this sacrificial victim's particularly commercial and pedestrian Calvary..."I scarcely think that the original author nor the readership of what was a serial in a popular magazine thought along these lines; to them, this was a sensational tale of gorey and horrible crime, without any deeper significance.There is quite a lot of this sort of thing, which makes this quite a difficult book to read. Sorting the facts from Mr Mack's views isn't always easy.Sorry to have to say this, because I really wanted to like this book. I don't, though.

  • By chloe on 22 October 2013

    i love it it came quickly good book and baste on true story. really enjoyed it had to see film

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