Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)

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Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#0
Posted: 12/9/05 at 6:37pm
Is it true he had to leave original production because he couldn't handle the vocal demands over time?

I read this on another board, and I am wondering if it is true?
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#1
Posted: 12/9/05 at 6:41pm
That's what I've heard. I don't think his voice is much like it used to be.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#2
Posted: 12/9/05 at 6:55pm
All I know is he scared the crap out of me in the part. Something George Hearn did not.

George was amazing as Sweeney, and gave an electifiying performance... but he didn't SCARE you the way Len did. It was an incredible performance by an incredible actor.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#3
Posted: 12/9/05 at 7:00pm
That is what I hear from many people.

On another forum they posted "Hearn vs Cariou thread" and most were like "Hearn all the way! His voice is amazing.. so much more powerful than Len... but I never saw Len live."

And that was annoying me, because though Len's voice wasn't quite as strong as Hearn's voice - most say he is the ULTIMATE Sweeney Todd, not Hearn.

I wish I saw Len as Sweeney!
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#4
Posted: 12/9/05 at 7:03pm
I totally prefer Len over George, there is something about his voice that just IS Sweeney. I'm rambling, hard to explain.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#5
Posted: 12/9/05 at 7:05pm
Cariou did do Sweeney for a full year, though. I saw it about two months in, and he sounded great, but I don't know what he was like near the end of his run. And his reviews for Dance a Little Closer reflected that the role had done some damage to his voice (though he sounds fine on the cast recording, made almost a year after Dance a Little Closer closed).

I found Cariou scarier too... I think he held back on the rage just enough to frighten you when he needed to. Hearn is excellent, but a little screamy, at least on the national tour taping.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#6
Posted: 12/9/05 at 7:06pm
Len internalized everything more. He did the "slow burn," mentally ill Sweeney. Think Hannibal Lecter... who was very calm and soothing... and freaked us all out. (Not that Len was calm and soothing, just under-played.)

If you've ever seen the movie "Lady In White" with him and Lucas Haas... check out a scene toward the end of the film... where Len is suddenly trying to break into the car to go after Lucas. Watch his face. See if he doesn't crawl under your skin and blow you away.

THAT's the way he played Sweeney. You honestly felt you were going to have nightmares from it.

EDIT: Sorry to use a film reference here, but it's the closest we have today to seeing what he did on stage. And it's only a brief moment... but if you watch this movie, you'll get a glimpse of it at the end... and it's worth it. (Not a bad film either!)
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Updated On: 12/9/05 at 07:06 PM
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#7
Posted: 12/9/05 at 7:33pm
I think Cariou got dirt on his vocal chords from his out-of-the-grave entrance in previews. Eventually they fixed it so that wouldn't happen, but the damage was done and he kept singing that way.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#8
Posted: 12/9/05 at 7:35pm
Ken Jennings said in an interview on Sondheim.com that Len never missed a performance, even though his doctor told him he should because the dirt they were using for the grave in the opening scene was getting into his lungs. He had a gravelly voice even THEN...and I heard him recently doing a book on tape and his voice sounds completely ripped to shreds, but that may just be because of his age...

Anyway, Cariou and Lansbury left at the same time--I think it was simply a matter of their contracts being up and the fact that they were ready to move onto other things.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#9
Posted: 12/9/05 at 7:52pm
I saw him towards the end of his run (I was very young), and he sounded incredible. Freaked the sHit out of me too. Light years better than Hearn.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#10
Posted: 12/9/05 at 8:00pm
I never saw him and don't really know much about him, but I'm listening to him right now
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#11
Posted: 12/9/05 at 8:09pm
ihearttheatre --- Don't be surprised if the "scare factor" doesn't come through in the recording. Most people prefer Hearn after listening to the OBCR.

It was a different experience in the theatre, and mostly came through in Len's acting and his presence.

His voice was "controlled" more often than not... but his face and demeanor were deadly.
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Updated On: 12/9/05 at 08:09 PM
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#12
Posted: 12/9/05 at 8:13pm
It makes me sad that Hearn gets all the credit for Sweeney. Because most have seen his performance on the video. All we really have of Len is the cast recording.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#13
Posted: 12/9/05 at 8:13pm
Some day I have to see the video of the OBC...it's been twenty-five years since Cariou gave that performance and people are STILL talking about how amazing it was. He must have been incredible...
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#14
Posted: 12/9/05 at 8:19pm
It is still easily one of the top ten best performances I have EVER seen on a stage.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#15
Posted: 12/9/05 at 8:27pm
I also have him on a limited release LP of "Ziegfeld" which he also did after "Sweeney Todd" in London and his voice sounds fine yet it's hard to acurately judge one on a studio cast recording.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#16
Posted: 12/9/05 at 8:35pm
Len was a wonderful Broadway leading man back in the day: Applause, A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd, among other accomplishments.

Hey… That's actually another difference between Len and George... Len is really a leading man. Taller, stronger, more of a stage presence... George is really a character actor who plays leading roles. He's not as tall, dashing or "strong" a presence physically... which is probably why he was more extraverted in his approach to Sweeney. Len had the weight and relevance just by "being" on the stage. He could approach the role internally and it got under your skin in the audience. George had to try harder and rise to the occasion in other physical ways to achieve Sweeney's impact.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#17
Posted: 12/10/05 at 1:27am

Len,
what a thrilling performer. Shame he never had another role as good as Sweeney. There was one production he almost did, The Confidence Man by Jim Steinman and Ray Errol Fox: which nearly got staged (several times) in the 70s and the 80s. From what I've heard, he's a bit wasted now: and is difficult to work with. I don't think, sadly, we'll ever see him perform another great role like Sweeney again. Unless Confidence Man happens...


Updated On: 12/10/05 at 01:27 AM
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#18
Posted: 12/10/05 at 1:38am
I was not fortunate enough to see either performance but comparing the Hearn DVD Sweeney to the Cariou OBCR, I really prefer Cariou.
I am sure the intensity was much greater on stage, but it still is evident on the disc. Hearn is far too over-the-top in places, and I prefer a brooding, intense sound to a "perfect note" sound in the voice. Sweeney is a dangerous, intense sort, served better by the quite deadly style.

I know it is sacrilege in a thread like this, but Cerveris is doing a marvelous, dark, intense Sweeney right now.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#19
Posted: 12/10/05 at 2:14am
George did a great job as Sweeney but Len to me was/is Sweeney Todd. I saw him a few times and even though I liked what George did it never really reached the level and intensity of what I had seen Len do. There was something about Len's performance that you made you think that you would never want to cross him.

Cerveris' performance is brilliant in different ways and in some cases closer to Len because of way he deals with the inner seething of the character.

The great thing is that thankfully I've not seen a bad Sweeney. I enjoyed Bob Gunton's Sweeney as well.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#20
Posted: 12/10/05 at 8:51am
What's strange is that I've always preferred Cariou's performance, and I've only heard the OBC. While Hearn sings wonderfully, he always seems awkward in the role...
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#21
Posted: 12/10/05 at 8:58am
I know it is sacrilege in a thread like this, but Cerveris is doing a marvelous, dark, intense Sweeney right now.

Couldn't agree more.

While Hearn sings wonderfully, he always seems awkward in the role...

Again, couldn't agree more.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#22
Posted: 12/10/05 at 11:26am
Warning: "My Opinions" ahead

Sweeney, to me is crazy through and through. Someone who has been locked away for a long time wouldn't be as calm as Len was in the beginging. Hearn portrayed him the way I immagined him...effing crazy. Len, don't get me wrong, was a wonderful Sweeney, but the two CAN NOT be compared. George's take was a full on looney and Len's take was a more subdued looney. Sure, I'm going to favor Hearn becuase he was Albin/ZaZa, The Wizard, and other amazing roles, but Len has been dissapearing slowly and I guess since the only video of Sweeney Todd is the tour with Hearn, that's the one everyone's going to think the best...so let's just leave the conversation to rest knowing that they can't be compared.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#23
Posted: 12/10/05 at 11:59am
As I mentioned earlier, I liked George's performance but RuprechtJr you have made my point for me. By playing Sweeney "crazy through and through" makes the character too one dimensional. I found the I could see the thought processes of the character when I saw Len's performance which made the character much more believable, to me anyway. I was not sure what he was going to do next and with Hearn there was no doubt so to me his portrayal was more predictable. Not bad, just predictable.
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re: Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd..)#24
Posted: 12/10/05 at 12:24pm
Certainly the two CAN be compared as several people have been doing it. There is no definitive answer as to who is "better" but a comparison is both accurate and important.
I did not compare the "performances," since I was unfortunate enough never to see either. Hearing Len on the Cast recording and seeing George on the DVD, I still prefer Len. Because in comparing them, the intense internal loonacy is my personal preference. I agree totally with Pab's post on "predictablity," with an internal Sweeney there is really no telling what he might do, and since it is circumstance that drives him to his actions, he becomes a chatacter one may be more inclined to "like."

I may also prefer Cerveris to either, but that is because he combines the internal simmering lunacy with that essential third element, I saw him do it live. I am not saying he is better, but being able to see him in person makes him more effective for me.
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