One of the big questions about Tim Burton’s adaptation of Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd has been how Johnny Depp would hold up as a singer. We’ve seen the guy acting in all kinds of roles with all kinds of accents, but can he sing? To make things dicier, the rebellious thesp opted not to take singing lessons and instead developed his own take on the venerable ‘I can’t really sing’ talk-singing style.
There was about twenty minutes of Sweeney Todd shown at Lincoln Center last week, and the response seems to be positive (check out what David Poland has to say about it here, and what The Reeler thought here). And now thanks to piracy and poor recordings, you can weigh in as well – five and a half minutes of Johanna, including Depp singing, has popped up as audio only on YouTube. The song is embedded below.
I can’t pass much judgment on this just listening to the crappy recording, but it does seem like Depp’s voice lacks the power of Len Cariou, the guy who defined Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. Still, the reactions of the crowd to Sweeney slicing people up mid-song – you can hear them laughing and clapping – makes me happy. What doesn’t make me happy is that The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, one of my favorite Broadway tunes, has been cut from the film as a singing number and is just present in the orchestral score. I think the song is wonderful, and would be amazing in the opening credits. Instead the movie opens with No Place Like London, a song without half the verve of The Ballad. Oh well.