Tim Burton’s film version of the Stephen Sondheim/Hugh Wheeler musical Sweeney Todd opened in theaters this weekend, and so far the reception has been very positive. Not only have many of the notoriously finicky Sondheim fans given the movie two thumbs up, but so have the critics (Sweeney is currently showing an 87% positive rating at rottentomates.com) and the general movie-going audience (it’s Number 4 at the box office).
Based on the Christopher Bond play (which is based on the 19th century legend of a murderous barber), the musical Sweeney Todd opened on Broadway in 1979. It was that rarest of creatures: the horror musical. Burton’s largely faithful film, which stars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, emphasizes the gloom and gore even more so. It was a risk to turn such an ambitious Broadway musical into a mainstream film, but so far it looks like the gamble has paid off.