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'Sweeney Todd' Trailer: Is it so bad to be a musical?

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Is it just me, or is it kind of hard to tell from the first trailer for Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street that this is the film version of the beloved Steven Sondheim musical? True, the trailer for the December DreamWorks release debuted last weekend in front of a very different DreamWorks film, the Ben Stiller/Farrelly brothers comedy Heartbreak Kid. But aside from a street scene with Johnny Depp sort of sing-talking to passers-by, then drawing out the lyrics “I will have vengeance, I will have salvaaaation,” you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was another weird Burton drama with another weird turn from Depp, who boasts a white skunk streak in his bushy mane. Not that this is an outright musical with more sung-through dialogue than most Sondheim productions.

Of course, Sweeney Toddis not the only movie musical to soft-pedal its musical nature intrailers. To varying degrees, recent adaptations of Broadway hits like Chicago, Rent, Dreamgirls, and even Joel Schumacher’s Phantom of the Opera have downplayed their song-and-dance aspect. (The trailer for Phantom features lots of singing, but not a single shot of an actor mouthing the lyrics that are playing at that moment.)

Still, there are exceptions — most notably, last summer’s $118million-grossing hit Hairspray. The trailer for that popular tuner is chockablock with bothsinging and (gulp!) dancing. Guess at least one studio learned that whenit comes to marketing movie musicals, you just can’t stop the beat. Why do you think the studios are still so shy when it comes to promoting musicals? And is anyone really fooled into going to a musical by such tactics?

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