FLASH FRIDAY: A Tasty Appetizer For Emma Thompson In SWEENEY TODD
Today, in honor of this week's biggest casting news, we salute awesomely accomplished and multi-award-winning stage, screen and soon-to-be NY Philharmonic SWEENEY TODD star Emma Thompson.
Much Ado About Something
Whetting the palates of every diehard musical theatre fiend around the world for a surprising new take on one of the most hallowed characters in the entire canon, that of conniving baker Mrs. Lovett in Stephen Sondheim's SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, it was announced this week that acclaimed actress Emma Thompson will essay the role opposite opera standout Bryn Terfel with the New York Philharmonic in March of next year. Besides having already proven her stage chops in roles ranging from sketch comedy to Shakespeare to LOOK BACK IN ANGER and ME & MY GIRL, Thompson's characteristic wry wit and inherent charm will provide fine fodder to add to the bag of tricks intrinsic to pulling off the show-stopping part in the dark Victorian musical thriller. Undoubtedly, Thompson is an ideal choice for Mrs. Lovett and the possibilities imaginable to those of us privileged enough to be aware of her acute abilities as an actress can surely attest to her potential to make yet another indelible mark in a brilliantly-written, virtual surefire guise with SWEENEY TODD.
Looking back at Thompson's early career, it is amply evident to see how instrumental her theatre training was, is and continues to be in influencing her choices in material and how she plays parts, as well as when looking at her vast range of performances to date themselves. First, in a college sketch comedy troupe alongside no less than Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, and, then, winning a special award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for an early play she herself wrote, THE CELLAR TAPES, Thompson started out strong and continued to soar in her theatre career throughout the 1980s as an actress and a writer. Her BEYOND THE FOOTLIGHTS and SHORT VEHICLE continued to establish her as a committed and fearless fresh new performer on the West End scene, as did LOOK BACK IN ANGER, while her headlining of the jaunty period romantic musical hit ME & MY GIRL opposite Robert Lindsay displayed even further unseen and unexplored skills - that of a true blue triple-threat. Mastering musical comedy is no easy feat, yet Thompson did just that - and in her West End musical debut, no less. Will the wonders never cease?! Well, as a matter of fact, that's just the very start!
Shakespeare came next - and the king of the Bard himself, Sir Kenneth Branagh, with whom Thompson became romantically involved with for many years, as well. Appearing in his HENRY V onscreen was her first foray into the film world, and her work on celluloid has been invariably spectacular ever since - a definite resume to reckon with; and how! Besides HENRY V, Thompson and Branagh also collaborated on a number of stage productions during the late-'80s, therein offering the versatile star a wide range of compelling parts to play - from a gender-bending turn as the Fool in KING LEAR to Helena in A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT DREAM to bringing MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING successfully to the screen in 1993.
While winning the hearts of theatre fans cemented Thompson's status as a tremendously talented stalwart, it was her screen work that would establish her as one of the finest performers around, period.
Winning a Best Actress Academy Award for HOWARD'S END, Thompson followed that up by dual nominations in 1993 with the similarly prestige-promoted pictures The Remains OF THE DAY and IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER. Showing her comedic side off in JUNIOR came next, while also winning another Oscar, this time for Best Screenplay, with SENSE & SENSBILITY - in which she starred, as well, of course. PRIMARY COLORS and LOVE ACTUALLY are two more memorable comedies committed to film soon thereafter, whereas Thompson flew to new dramatic heights byway of her unforgettable twofer of Mike Nichols HBO masterpieces with WIT and ANGELS IN AMERICA at the turn of the new century. Additionally, a whole new generation now knows and loves Thompson thanks to the HARRY POTTER and NANNY MCPHEE franchise films, while she continues to explore new genres such as in the recent horror-themed BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, animated BRAVE and sci-fi comedy MEN IN BLACK 3.
As if the SWEENEY TODD casting news were not enough, the end of this year looks like it will be yet another triumphant time for the obscenely gifted Emma Thompson on the big screen, as well, with her starring role opposite Tom Hanks in the Disney biofilm SAVING MR. BANKS set for a December release - not to mention her self-scripted EFFIE and romantic drama THE LOVE PUNCH in the offing for next year, too, along with SWEENEY TODD. Plus, Thompson has scripted the contemporary, vastly revised new big screen version of ANNIE, starring Quvenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx, set for a 2014 holiday release.
Indeed, Emma Thompson did it all and continues to do it all - and, with SWEENEY TODD, she will remind those lucky enough to be in attendance why she remains a major musical theatre star worth her mettle, too.
Not While She's Around
So, now, let's look at some of Emma Thompson's best theatrical work and look ahead to her eagerly awaited SWEENEY TODD star turn early next year.
First up, Emma Thompson in her West End starring musical premiere performance showcase alongside Robert Lindsay - the hit revival of ME & MY GIRL, here featuring the show's big song, "The Lambeth Walk".
Now, check out Thompson and Lindsay in another musical moment from the 1984 Royal Variety Performance with a ME & MY GIRL charmer.
Next, view Emma Thompson with Kenneth Branagh in the complete TV presentation of her stage success brought seamlessly to the small screen, LOOK BACK IN ANGER.
After that, sample the collaborators setting the screen alight in HENRY V.
Witness the pair in action once again in Shakespeare's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
HOWARD'S END co-star Anthony Hopkins presents Thompson with her second Oscar, this one for Best Adapted Screenplay for writing SENSE & SENSIBILITY.
The first of two Mike Nichols early-2000s masterpieces, here is WIT.
And, the simply incredible ANGELS IN AMERICA, co-starring Al Pacino and Meryl Streep.
HARRY POTTER & THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN gave Thompson a new fan-base to adore her, thanks to the classic character of Professor Sybill Trelawney.
NANNY MCPHEE is another film to recently ingratiate Thompson with the pre-teen set, as has its sequel.
Thompson also endeared herself to young people with Pixar's BRAVE and she discusses her participation in the film in this interview clip.
Portraying real-life author PL Travers - of MARY POPPINS fame - Thompson may have to clear a place on her mantle for a new statue judging from a first look at her work in SAVING MR. BANKS.
Lastly, enjoy Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh sharing a lovely duet on UK TV's THOMPSON more than twenty years ago.
As a special bonus, check out a punk-tastic Emma in 1987 singing a soulful "Tutti Frutti" with Robbie Coltrane.
So, what is your absolute favorite Emma Thompson performance to date? What role has had an effect on you far greater than any other? Furthermore, is Emma Thompson about to join the great pantheon of unmissable Mrs. Lovetts in SWEENEY TODD like Angela Lansbury was originally and Patti LuPone was after that come March of next year? Time will tell!
Whatever your preference, Emma Thompson baking up an acting feast for our pleasure onstage with the NY Philharmonic will be something really worth salivating for - for all these reasons and many more.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro