The best Mrs. Lovett

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The best Mrs. Lovett #1
Posted: 10/14/08 at 5:20am
With Angela Lansbury coming back to Broadway I was reminded of her performance originating Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Considering all the different women who have played the role who do you think is best? I have to say that I loved Helena Bonham Carter for it.

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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #2
Posted: 10/14/08 at 6:14am
Angela was without a doubt the perfect Mrs Lovett, a very close second would be Nancey Hayes in the State opera of South Australia production, that also stared a very young Anthony Warlow back in 1988
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #2
Posted: 10/14/08 at 6:30am
I actually really liked Patti LuPone in the role... I'm saying 'actually' because I've never considered myself a huge fan of hers. But I preferred her in the concert version than in the revival... I love Angela Lansbury, but somehow, her Mrs. Lovett just didn't do it for me. She was just so kooky; she constantly reminded me of Jennyanydots in "Cats."
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #3
Posted: 10/14/08 at 6:30am
The best Mrs. Lovett? Of the four I have seen, Angela Lansbury by a landslide! Second place would be a tie: Patti LuPone and Beth Fowler. I HATED the movie version, and only liked the weekend in the country sequence as far as the miscast Helena Bonham-Carter is concerned.... Wish I had seen Nancy Hayes in the role...
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #4
Posted: 10/14/08 at 6:36am
Lansbury - without question.
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #5
Posted: 10/14/08 at 7:08am
Lansbury by far as well. I LOVED the kookiness of her character.
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #6
Posted: 10/14/08 at 7:38am
No doubt Angela Lansbury.
I would have to say that Christine Baranski in Kennedy Center's Sondheim Festival presentation was also excellent
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #7
Posted: 10/14/08 at 8:36am
No one can ever top Angela Lansbury's Mrs. Lovett. She just IS that character.
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #8
Posted: 10/14/08 at 8:44am
I have been lucky enough to see many productions of Sweeney. Among the many Mrs Lovetts are Angela Lansbury, Dorothy Loudon, Joyce Castle, Elaine Bonazzi, Beth Fowler, June Havock (The real Dainty June), Patti LuPone, Christine Baranski,Judy Kaye, Elaine Page among others.

The most special will always be Angela Lansbury because she was the first and the part was written for her. I went to see Sweeney when it was in previews not know anything about the piece except it was the new Sondheim musical and I was blown away. Angela had that English Music Hall performance that no one else seems to achieve.

Having said that, my favorite is Dorothy Loudon. Her interpretation was amazing and so different than Angela, who she replaced in the original production. She made the part her own. While she nailed the comedy, she played Mrs Lovett as a woman totally in love, so in the end it was truly heart breaking.
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Updated On: 10/14/08 at 08:44 AM
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #9
Posted: 10/14/08 at 10:05am
"...I love Angela Lansbury, but somehow, her Mrs. Lovett just didn't do it for me. She was just so kooky; she constantly reminded me of Jennyanydots in "Cats." --- Schmerg_The_Impaler

100% agree with you there, my friend re: The best Mrs. Lovett

That said, Patti is actually my favorite. I prefer the concert version to the revivial, but only because I'm not a fan of how it was staged...
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #10
Posted: 10/14/08 at 10:29am
" "...I love Angela Lansbury, but somehow, her Mrs. Lovett just didn't do it for me. She was just so kooky; she constantly reminded me of Jennyanydots in "Cats." --- Schmerg_The_Impaler

100% agree with you there, my friend"

Did you see Angela in person or are you going by the video?
Her work opposite George Hearn was very different than her work with Len Cariou. Because they played Sweeney in two different ways she changed her interpretation accordingly. I much preffered her work with Mr. Cariou.

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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #11
Posted: 10/14/08 at 11:07am
It's Lansbury.
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #12
Posted: 10/14/08 at 11:59am
Judy Kaye
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #13
Posted: 10/14/08 at 12:02pm
Lansbury. My second would have to be HBC from the film. She really did movie with some simple things that she did. Like slamming the bake house door after locking toby in.... brilliant.
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #14
Posted: 10/14/08 at 12:36pm
I saw Judy Kaye - and loved her - would have love to see both Lansbury and Lupone -
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #15
Posted: 10/14/08 at 12:44pm
Dorothy Loudon, for all the same reasons as South FL Marc
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #16
Posted: 10/14/08 at 12:55pm
Loved Julia MacKenzie's attention to detail, but then, she was the best Into the Woods Witch, so I'll go with AL. Would love to have seen Dorothy L though.
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #17
Posted: 10/14/08 at 1:05pm
She was just so kooky; she constantly reminded me of Jennyanydots in "Cats."

Except CATS came AFTER SWEENEY...so it's more like Jennyanydots reminds you of Angela...
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #18
Posted: 10/14/08 at 1:51pm
Speaking of that English Music Hall tradition, at certain points, Lansbury seems to be doing Tessie O'Shea, particularly in some of her business in "A Little Priest".

I'd still like to see Patricia Routledge take on that role, though she's probably too old for it now and apparently passed on doing it originally.
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #19
Posted: 10/14/08 at 2:27pm
I'd go with Lansbury because she created a unique character, something that went above and beyond what's in the script.

Having said that, I agree South Fl Marc that she was much better with Cariou than with Hearn. If you've only seen the video of the national tour, you're not seeing her at her best. Her performance there seems frozen and lacking in spontaneity. It wasn't like that was when she did it on Broadway.

I've liked most actresses I've seen in the role. Loudon was a bit uneven, tending to mug a bit at points and I didn't really like her "By the Sea" (though it might have played better in a smaller theatre), but her best parts were thrilling. She certainly was a more overtly emotional Mrs. Lovett than Lansbury had been and she had some brilliant and powerful moments.

And judging from the available evidence, Sheila Hancock was superb in the first London production.

I've also liked Judy Kaye, Joyce Castle, Elaine Paige, and Myrna Paris a great deal in the role. I thought LuPone was better in the Doyle production than in the concert performances, but I wouldn't put her on my list of favorites. Beth Fowler was very good but I didn't like that production much. Rosalind Elias brought some interesting qualities to the role but she was undone by her inability or unwillingness to belt at all.

And I've seen several other Mrs. Lovetts in productions at small theatres. Some have done very well, others less well.

Of the Mrs. Lovetts I've seen in major productions, the only one I didn't like at all was Christine Baranski. I thought she was playing totally for laughs in her Baranski style. Well, about halfway through the second act, she suddenly started playing a version of Mrs. Lovett instead of a laughs machine, but it was too late.

She was also hurt by being in that production, which I thought was not good at all. A different director might have pushed her more not to be Christine Baranski but to play Lovett.

Updated On: 10/14/08 at 02:27 PM
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #20
Posted: 10/14/08 at 2:53pm
Angela Lansbury. She just is.


(Regarding Patti LuPone's take: really loved her in the revival, but couldn't stand her in the concert version. For the concert, she was attempting an imitation of Lansbury's performance which doesn't work; no one will or can be what she was. She finally embraced the character and made it her own for the Doyle revival and the results were pretty incredible, IMO.)
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #21
Posted: 10/14/08 at 3:02pm
"Did you see Angela in person or are you going by the video?
Her work opposite George Hearn was very different than her work with Len Cariou. Because they played Sweeney in two different ways she changed her interpretation accordingly. I much preffered her work with Mr. Cariou."

I admit, I only saw the video. But I do have the OBC recording, and judging by the audio, she's still not my favourite... I think I'm in the minority when it comes to favourite Sweeney cast members, because I liked Len Cariou a lot more than George Hearn as Sweeney, and Celia Keenan-Bolger was my favourite Johanna.

I know Cats came after Sweeney Todd, but I grew up on "Cats" and didnt get introduced to Sweeney until I was twelve or so... I didn't say Angela wasn't good, I just said that I've never been able to get past the way she reminds ME of Jennyanydots.

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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #22
Posted: 10/14/08 at 4:19pm
Julia McKenzie is the best Mrs. Lovett ever vocally, simply because she brought to the role a long association with the music of Sondheim and is one of the greatest interpreters of his music. She is also a superb actress. Lansbury and Cariou are the greatest interpreters of these roles and together they were electrifying and definitive, in my opinion. But I still prefer McKenzie's Lovett, mainly because she is a much better singer than Lansbury or anyone else I have heard in the role.
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Updated On: 10/14/08 at 04:19 PM
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #23
Posted: 10/14/08 at 4:57pm
I've only seen Patti, Judy Kaye, and Angela (on video), but Judy Kaye was my favorite, due mainly to her vocals.
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re: The best Mrs. Lovett #24
Posted: 10/14/08 at 8:18pm
I agree with dayao about Cariou and Lansbury being the greatest interpreters of the roles. I've only heard McKenzie on the BBC broadcast of the National Theatre production. I have to say that I didn't much like her singing at first, but I've gotten used to it. I usually prefer Lovett sung with some direct head voice, which McKenzie tried not to do (something she's talked about).

Still, watching her on the Oliviers, she's a lot of fun and I imagine that her performance came off better live than it does when you're just listening to it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXg5tut9LXo

But I've enjoyed the singing of several other Lovetts more, including Lansbury (though there's no question that McKenzie is more endowed vocally) and certainly Judy Kaye and, among women who pretty much belted the role, Elaine Paige.