Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Ed Sanders (Toby) - The Avenging Angel
Ed Sanders, who was born in England, is a remarkable talent who seemed to have dropped off of the entertainment radar screen. Which is a shame because he had such a beautiful voice. When Ed auditioned for the role of Tobias Ragg (Toby) in Tim Burton's magnificent "Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", he competed, literally, against hundreds of other boys to win that much coveted role. It was a well deserved win, as I cannot imagine any one else playing that part. Stephen Sondheim, the American composer who wrote "Sweeny Todd" for Broadway, is considered to be a genius of the American musical theater. Some of you may remember him as being the lyricist of "West Side Story", and the composer of the very special and enigmatic, "Send In The Clowns" from the Broadway play "A Little Night Music". Sondheim had the good fortune as a very young teenager, to be tutored personally, in the fine arts and craft of musical theater writing by the great Oscar Hammerstein II, who is also an iconic, American genius of the American musical stage, and screen. "Sweeny Todd" is an incredibly violent movie, so that when Ed Sanders (Toby) sings "Not While I'm Around" to Nellie Lovett, played so excellently by Helena Bonham Carter, it is a brief, but well welcomed respite from all the killings that have transpired in the film. It is a very difficult song to sing, as all of Sondheim's songs are, because of its atonal nature and chords, that make it a challenge to ferret out the correct notes to sing. To add to that difficulty, Ed sings "Not While I'm Around" in two key signatures, first in a high registry, than in a low. Because of the extreme range of the melody, this is no small feat to accomplish. The modulation that separates these two keys is very subtle, as a good modulation should be, so that one really does not notice it. To put this in plain language, when Ed starts to sing the song, it sounds really high. When he repeats it after Nellie Lovett's solo, it sounds low. What a performance it is. Ed's voice is so sweet, poignant, innocent, deeply moving, and so sensitive, that it is irresistible to the heart. Whenever I listen to it, and I listen to it a lot, it puts me into a wistful, but deliciously melancholy mood. I love this song. I find it surprising though, that "Not While I'm Around" has not been discovered by more people. It is a Twenty-First Century classic. There are good reasons why I call this post "Ed Sanders (Toby) - The Avenging Angel", but it would spoil the plot for those of you who have not seen the movie as of yet, so I will not elucidate on it in this post. "Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is a must see movie. Let's bring out the popcorn, drinks, and candy, and enjoy Ed Sanders wonderful performance of "Not While I'm Around". Safe journeys to all the fans of Angel Watchers, wherever you may be.