chapter  2
21 Pages

The throat that sings

ByAaron C. Thomas

This chapter discusses some of the qualities of each of the theatrical genres in order to draw out some of the ways that connecting them with Sweeney Todd can help people make sense of Sondheim and Wheeler's musical thriller. Johanna sings about and to a bunch of caged songbirds, a metaphor for the young woman's desire for freedom that is also unique to Sondheim and Wheeler's version of the tale. Athenian tragedies most notably featured a singing, dancing chorus that functioned as an integral part of the narrative itself. Sondheim and Wheeler deliberately alternate between humour and terror throughout Sweeney Todd; Mrs Lovett is not the only comic figure. The musical effect, clearly audible on any recording of Arnold's piece, is strikingly similar to the transition in Sondheim's music between the first reprise of 'The Ballad of Sweeney Todd' and the first bars of 'Green Finch and Linnet Bird'.