Josh Groban and the return of
He’s the new “Demon Barber of Fleet Street” … and Josh Groban just learned how to get a close shave. He actually took barbering lessons: “I did! I wanted the shaving community, should they come to the show, to be really inspired,” he said.
He agreed with Anthony Mason: “We’ll probably start with the neck. And then we’ll turn around and we’ll do your cheek this way.”
“Is there any art to these decisive strokes?” Mason asked.
“I’m wining it! This is where theatrical improvisation comes in!” Groban said. “I’ve never given anyone a real, like, razor sharp shave. We’ve enjoyed you on television for a long time. Thank you so much for spending your last day here with us.”
“This is where I say my last words?”
“That’s right. Captured in high def!”
In “Sweeney Todd,” the new Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s popular musical, most of his customers do not to stay alive
“You’re not known for playing evil,” Mason said.
“No, I’m not,” Groban said. “That’s part of the fun.”
As Sweeney, Grobin has a co-conspirator: Analia Ashford plays Mrs. Levitt, who lovingly disposes of Sweeney’s victims in her meatloaf. “At the top, he’s just a bubbly, bubbly, little pot of magic,” Ashford said. “And underneath, it’s the stew that’s super complex.
“You know when you’re playing Iago, you don’t know you’re a bad guy. And that’s how I’ve always seen Mrs. Leavitt: She doesn’t think she’s bad, she’s saving. Mrs. Leavitt is her own. She’s actually a survivor. And she needs Sweeney Todd, because she’s a woman in a man’s world.”
The original 1979 production, starring Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Levitt, and Len Carew as Sweeney, won eight Tonys. The unlikely inspiration for the musical was a dark Victorian melodrama, but Sondheim “thought it could sing.”
“An elevator pitch like that in 1977, you know, would have been something like, ‘Okay, have fun with it, Steve! Have fun!'” Groban said. I’ll never forget when Tommy Cale said to me at an ice hockey game, ‘You know, you should really come to this workshop I’m doing. It’s about Alexander Hamilton and it’s a hip-hop musical. Is.’ I go, ‘Is this a comedy? What is…?’ And I’m a little bit like, ‘Good luck with that, you know? Can’t wait to see it. Of course it’s going to be great!'”
Thomas Cale, the Tony-winning director of “Hamilton,” is now directing “Sweeney Todd,” just across the street from “Hamilton.” Mason asked him, “You directed what is still the most popular show on Broadway, right there. How does it compare?”
“It was a huge source of inspiration,” Cale said. “It’s a show about a misunderstood person, and the world is trying to figure out why he did what he did. There’s no show on the other side of 46th Street unless there’s ‘Sweeney Todd’.”
Comic relief in “Sweeney” comes with a Cockney accent: Mrs. Leavitt. “It’s like speaking a second language,” Ashford said.
He got advice from the show’s British choreographer: “Every once in a while he’d be like, ‘That’s the seed. That’s the seed, no. hustle and bustle. seeds You know, I’m standing backstage going, ‘Buzz, buzz, buzz.’ My little boy hates it. He’s like, ‘Will you please stop doing your British accident?’ And I’m not fixing it because I think it’s pretty cool.
“I have a six-and-a-half-year-old boy; the last time I was on stage doing eight shows a week, he wasn’t even six months old.”
“Whatever must have been really difficult,” Mason said.
“Oh, it was really challenging,” Ashford said. “I was nursing. I’d run away from the pump after Act One, at intermission. It’s just about milk. Eight shows a week and milk.”
The last time Groban was doing eight shows a week, the singer was making his Broadway debut, nearly seven years ago. “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.” He described the experience as “the happiest experience I’ve ever had in my career.
“I was a theater kid who hit a fork in the road when I found my way into the music business. It wasn’t something I dreamed about in my bedroom at age 10. This“
Check out this 2016 “Sunday Morning” report on Josh Groban’s Broadway debut in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”:
It was Groban’s manager who suggested he play Sweeney. “And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Oh, I’m not old enough to do this. [that].’ And he’s like, ‘Dude, you’re 41!’ My God, it’s old enough!” [He turned 42 the day “Sunday Morning” spoke with him.]
The production had its first run-through a year and a half ago, Groban recalled: “And Sondheim was going to be there. He was excited. And two days before we were going to do that run-through, he passed away.”
“Did you ever think, at that moment, that this would not happen now?” Mason asked.
“Well, there were very conflicting emotions, because the first, of course, was just grief,” he replied.
Sondheim had been a fan of “The Great Comet,” and he and Groban became friends: “He said to me one time when we were hanging out, ‘I’m not going to tell you when I’m going to be on the show. Not gonna tell. ‘Thanks, Steve!’ And then of course during the break, the group text is, Red Alert! Red Alert! The teacher is in the building!”
In the end, Groban and company went ahead with “Sweeney Todd” to honor Sondheim — and also because the star clearly enjoys a close shave.
Click the video player below to watch a preview of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”:
For more information:
Story prepared by Mary Rafali. Editor: Steve Taylor.