A huge thank-you to Society friend Alex Young for directing us to this audio gem – effectively the first-ever public performance of "A Little Priest", recorded on the opening night of Sweeney Todd, on 1st March 1979 at Broadway's Uris Theatre.
Imagine the joy of hearing this wonderfully wicked waltz for the first time... and being part of a crowd also hearing it for the first time! Listening to the cries of laughter throughout the number – performed by Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury, of course – is spine-tingling, and it's difficult not to be envious of those lucky first-nighters.
(The show previewed from 6th February, but the clip below is from the show's opening a few weeks later.)
No surprise that this production won eight of its nine Tony Award nominations, including gongs for Lansbury (Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical), Cariou (Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical), Hal Prince (Best Direction of a Musical), Hugh Wheeler (Best Book of a Musical), Sondheim (Best Original Score) and the show itself for Best Musical. It also secured wins for Eugene Lee (Best Scenic Design) and Franne Lee (Best Costume Design).
While we're talking about early Sweeneys, you might also be interested to hear the show's original ending, recorded at the very first preview. In this version, Sweeney keens over the body of Lucy and sings a reprise of "Not While I'm Around", which was of course quickly replaced by a reprise of "A Barber and His Wife". You can hear it here ("Not While I'm Around" starts at 3:00):
Best served with some mince pies...