The student news site of Freehold High School

The Colonial

The student news site of Freehold High School

The Colonial

The student news site of Freehold High School

The Colonial

“Anyone Can Whistle” vs. “Sweeney Todd”

Art is one of the most important parts of human life. All people enjoy art in some way, whether it’s fashion, music, dancing, painting, writing, or musical theater. To me, musical theater is everything. And who does it better than Stephen Sondheim? I’ll tell you. No one. I’m sure many of you have heard of the musical “Sweeney Todd” also known as “The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”. But have you ever heard of “Anyone Can Whistle”? No? That’s ok. No one has. But, they are both works of the famous composer Stephen Sondheim. Let’s dive into the obvious differences and not-so-known similarities between these two shows.

“Sweeney Todd” is an incredibly famous musical created in 1979 based on a story written in 1846, which is around when the show takes place. Ever since its first debut, “Sweeney Todd” has been a hit. Its first run on Broadway lasted for five hundred fifty-seven performances and won three Tony awards. Since then, it has had three Broadway revivals! One of which is currently going on, as of October 2023! Some songs from this show are considered some of the best songs in musical theater ever written. This includes “Pretty Women”, “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”, and “No Place Like London”. This show also had many famous actors perform, such as Josh Groban (as Sweeney), Angela Lansbury (as Ms. Lovett), and Gaten Matarozzo (as Tobias). As of right now, community theaters perform this show very, very often. I highly recommend seeing it.

Now to consider “Anyone Can Whistle”, one of the biggest flops in all of Broadway history. This show was written in 1964 and was set around the same time in an imaginary town. The Broadway show was so confusing to audiences that very few tickets were sold. In total, the show had nine Broadway performances and has never had a revival. Keep in mind that Broadway shows perform eight times a week. While you may not expect it, some songs from this show are also enormously popular. These songs include “Anyone Can Whistle”, “Everybody Says ‘Don’t’”, and “With So Little to be Sure of”. Fortunately, this show has also had some very famous performers (although there has never been a proper cast recording due to the lack of popularity). These performers include Angela Lansbury (as Cora), Audra McDonald (as Fay), and Patti LuPone (as Cora). This show is almost never done by community theaters. You’d be lucky to hear of it happening probably once in your lifetime (maybe). However, I love it and recommend seeing it (if possible)!

Image by NENA Productions Theater Project

 

In conclusion, it is unbelievably cool to compare and contrast one of theater’s most and least popular musicals. And while at first glance, the two seem like polar opposites, I hope you can now see the similarities the two shows have as well. I hope the beloved composer, Stephen Sondheim, is proud of all of his works (even if they didn’t go over too well with audiences), and I hope you’ll now consider some of the deeper details of even some of the most unpopular musicals before deciding what to see.

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About the Contributor
Cayden Jay, Staff Writer
Cayden Jay is a freshman at Freehold High School and is thrilled to be in his first year of The Colonial Newspaper. He enjoys writing about theater, science, and history. Cayden is going to be 6'2 so it really doesn't matter how tall he is now. Cayden is in Boro's Medical Science Magnet Program and loves topics such as raccoons, history, neurodiversity, theater, and Spider-Man. In the future, he hopes to become a pediatric psychiatrist.

Comments (4)

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  • N

    NoorNov 15, 2023 at 6:19 pm

    great article! you’ll never be 6’2 tho!

    Reply
  • M

    MartinNov 14, 2023 at 12:02 pm

    Cayden I’m gonna be honest I had no clue who Sondheim was before this article despite doing theatre. Thank you for sharing your theatre kid wisdom

    Reply
  • J

    JennaNov 14, 2023 at 11:39 am

    I love this article soo much!! I love theatre and this article was very contemplative and interesting! keep up the good work cgayden!!!!

    Reply
    • J

      JennaNov 14, 2023 at 11:53 am

      *gayden

      Reply