No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
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We’re featuring a week of musical theater tunes from music researcher and longtime NYFOS subscriber Amy Asch. This post originally ran on June 29, 2017.

It was not consciously planned, but the songs I chose to start and end this week are both idealistic.  By contrast, today’s pick involves serial murder and cannibalism.

For those who don’t know: Sweeney Todd is a vengeful barber who intends to slit the throat of a powerful judge.  Already, Sweeney has killed a rival barber who jeopardized that plan. (There’s much more to it, but this is all you need to understand today’s song.) Nellie Lovett sells meat pies and business is terrible.  She has befriended Sweeney and given him a room above her shop.  (Again, much more to it, but…)

They need to dispose of the dead man’s body.

In its ghoulish way the song is — if you’ll forgive me — delicious.  The driving waltz, the characters’ delight in their scheme, the endlessly inventive lyric, and the listener’s eager anticipation for the next joke give the scene tremendous energy.  And I have never thought of shepherd’s pie the same way again.

I’m linking to the original Broadway cast album (Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett; Len Cariou as Sweeney) so you can concentrate on the words.

Sondheim – “A Little Priest” from Sweeney Todd (1979)

Amy Asch

Amy Asch is a long-time NYFOS subscriber who does research about Broadway songwriters, musicals and films for books, concerts and documentaries.  With Dominic McHugh she is co-editor of the recently published Complete Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner (Oxford University Press).  She also compiled and annotated The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II (Knopf).  She has done projects for the 92nd St Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists series, the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, the Library of Congress, and the estates of Irving Berlin and Jonathan Larson (Rent).

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