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Mrs. Lovett
Mrs. lovett.jpg
Mrs. Lovett as portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter
Portrayed by Angela Lansbury (original 1979 Broadway cast)
Patti LuPone (2001 concert)
Patti LuPone (2005 Broadway revival)
Helena Bonham Carter (2007 film)
Judy Kaye (2007-2008 Canada & U.S. National Tour)
Information
Gender Female
Age late 30s to mid 50s
Date of birth late 1700s to early 1800s, dies in 1846 in most adaptations.
Occupation Baker
Spouse(s) Albert Lovett (deceased)

Mrs. Lovett is a fictional character appearing in many adaptations of the story Sweeney Todd. She is most commonly referred to as Nellie, although Margery, Maggie, Sarah, Shirley, Wilhemia and Claudetta are other names she has been given. It is debated if she was based on an actual person or not.[1] The character also appears in modern media related to Sweeney Todd including the Stephen Sondheim musical and its 2007 film adaptation.

Contents

Character overview

In every version of the story in which she appears, Mrs. Lovett is the business partner and accomplice of barber/serial killer Sweeney Todd; in some versions, she is also his lover. She makes and sells meat pies made from Todd's victims.

Usually, Mrs. Lovett is depicted as a childless widow, although in some depictions (but very rarely) Mr. Albert Lovett is shown. Before she goes into business with Todd, she is on the verge of poverty, with her premises being filthy and infested with vermin. In the musical she has resorted to using a rather revolting substitute for meat, and laments her pies are the worst ones in London. She also appears to have a rivalry (or at least in her mind) with Mrs. Mooney an opponent pie seller, who uses cats for her pies.

Various interpretations

Although Mrs. Lovett's character and role in the story are similar in each version, certain details vary according to the story's interpretation. In some versions, for example, Mrs. Lovett commits suicide when their crimes are discovered, while in others, Todd kills her himself. Her physical appearance varies from a slim and alluring beauty, to a plump, homely lunatic. Whether their relationship is platonic or romantic also varies according to interpretation.[2][3]

Role in the musical

In Stephen Sondheim's 1979 stage musical Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Tim Burton's 2007 film adaptation, Todd pays a visit to Mrs. Lovett's pie shop below his old home after 15 years in exile, seeking information about his lost family. Mrs. Lovett recognizes him as her former tenant, Benjamin Barker, with whom she was (and is) secretly in love. She informs him that his wife, Lucy, was raped by Judge Turpin — who exiled Todd on a false charge — and informs Todd that Lucy was so distraught that she poisoned herself with arsenic. Seeking vengeance, Todd reopens his shaving parlour above the shop, and slits the throats of his customers. Mrs. Lovett initiates a plan for Todd to send the corpses of his victims down a chute that leads to her bakehouse. She then uses the flesh to bake meat pies, which makes her business very successful.

She and Todd take in an orphan, Tobias Ragg, to whom she becomes like a mother. She also dreams of marrying Todd, who is completely uninterested in her.

In the story's climactic "Final Sequence", Todd murders Turpin and a beggar woman, and discovers that the latter is actually Lucy. Todd confronts Mrs. Lovett, who confesses that Lucy survived drinking the poison but was driven insane, reduced to begging. Mrs. Lovett then confesses her love to Todd, and promises to be a better wife than Lucy ever was. Todd pretends to forgive her, gathering her in his arms — only to throw her into the furnace, where she burns to death.

Portrayals

In film and stage adaptations of the Sweeney Todd story, Lovett is considered the female lead. To date, all actresses who have been eligible have earned Tony Award nominations.

  • Stella Rho portrayed her in the 1936 film Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
  • Dorothy Loudon replaced Lansbury in the original Broadway production.
  • Judy Kaye replaced LuPone in the 2005 Broadway revival, before it ended production in early 2006. She went on star in the national tour version of the John Doyle revival for which she received acclaim and had to learn to play the tuba.
  • Joanna Lumley portrayed her in the 1998 Showtime television movie The Tale of Sweeney Todd starring Ben Kingsley. Her character is in love with Sweeney Todd and has a romantic/physical relationship with him as opposed to an unrequited attraction. She is additionally—and with the implied consent of Todd—sexually involved with a local judge, to whom she provides sadomasochistic release. She is imprisoned for her crimes in the end, and does not die in this version.
  • Carrie Cimma portrays Mrs. Lovett in the 2009 National Tour.

Songs

In the musical Mrs. Lovett sings many numbers by herself and with other characters. The tracks were all composed by Stephen Sondheim. These include:

  • "The Worst Pies in London"
  • "Poor Thing" (with Todd)*
  • "My Friends" (with Todd)
  • "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir" (with Tobias and Todd)"*
  • "Wait" (with Todd)
  • "A Little Priest" (with Todd)*
  • "God, That's Good" (with Tobias)*
  • "By the Sea" (with Todd)*
  • "Not While I'm Around" (with Tobias)*
  • "Parlour Songs (Sweet Polly Plunkett)" (with Beadle)**
  • "Parlour Songs Part 2" (The Tower of Bray)" (with Beadle and Tobias)**
  • "Searching" (with Todd, Johanna, Anthony, and Beggar Woman)*
  • "Final Sequence" (with Todd and Tobias)
  • "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (Epilogue)" (with Company)**

(* Edited for 2007 film)
(** Cut from 2007 film)

References








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