"Freely Flows the Blood of Those Who Moralize": Morality and Violence in the Theatrical, Character, and Musical Elements of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd
Yanaway, Amy Gabrielle
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This thesis delves into the background of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to provide a good foundation on which to base a musical analysis. The first chapter describes the theatrical genres that have influenced Sweeney Todd, namely the nineteenth-century melodrama and the plays of the Theatre of the Grand Guignol in Paris. The second chapter follows the history and evolution of Sweeney’s character and motivations through his story’s many adaptations. The third and final chapter – the focus of this thesis – reviews a few existing analyses of the music of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, but more importantly, offers original Schenkerian-based analyses of two songs that represent turning points in the drama, the “Epiphany” scene and “Johanna – Act II Sequence.” These analyses highlight the psychological progression of Sweeney’s character as the musical progresses and discuss whether the music works to support or undermine Sweeney’s words and actions.