The Difference Between the "Sweeney Todd" Movie and the Musical

by Michael Black
Tim Burton directed the 2007 movie version of

Tim Burton directed the 2007 movie version of "Sweeney Todd."

Franco Origlia/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

It is not uncommon for a play or musical to undergo drastic changes when it is turned into a major motion picture. But the 2007 movie adaptation of "Sweeney Todd" remains fairly faithful to the original 1979 stage musical. That is not to say that there were no changes (there were several), but rather that the major characters and plot points match in both versions.

Song Accompaniment

One of the most striking differences between the movie and the stage musical versions of "Sweeney Todd" is the way the songs are performed. On stage, many of the songs and interludes in "Sweeney Todd" have a chorus of performers (generally minor or extra characters) that accompany the musical instruments and perform backup vocals. In the movie, only the lead vocalists sing the songs. The accompaniment was provided entirely by backing tracks with traditional instruments. This difference affects the entire feel of some of the songs.

Song Arrangement

The stage musical version of "Sweeney Todd" runs significantly longer than the movie version about 140 minutes compared to 116 minutes. For the movie, several songs were shortened and "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" was completely removed. Stephen Sondheim, creator of the stage musical, had significant input in the production of the movie. Parts of the songs that were removed were not essential to the story.

Anthony and Johanna

In the movie version of "Sweeney Todd," Anthony and Johanna have next to no face-to-face contact until the final scenes. In the stage musical, they have significantly more physical interaction in the early portions of the story. This helps to establish the bond between Anthony and Johanna.

Other Differences

In most versions of the musical, Toby is played by an adult (an old stage convention), but in the movie version, Toby is played by Ed Sanders, an actual child. The movie "Sweeney Todd" is also significantly bloodier than the stage version. The scenery during the song "By the Sea" is also very different. In the movie, Todd and Mrs. Lovett are taken to a bright beach setting (a stark contrast to the rest of the movie), through the magic of cinematography. In the stage musical, this imaginary scene shift is completely absent.


Photo Credits

  • Franco Origlia/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images