Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Complete at Last

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Complete at Last

Article excerpt

Swedish star Peter Jöback, now 42, was drawn to Sweeney Todd as a teenager

Broadway star Norm Lewis, guesting in a recent Scandinavian concert tour, described the main attraction, Peter Jöback, as "the Swedish Ricky Martin!" It's an apt comparison. Both are major recordings artists in their homeland, both are openly gay performers raising young kids, and both have recently tackled iconic leading roles on Broadway (Martin in Evita's first revival; Jöback in The Phantom of the Opera). Now Jöback's muses have brought him home to star in Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Sweeney Todd at Stockholm's Stadstcatern, with a newly commissioned translation by Galle Norlén.

Jöback first heard the operatic musical's score as a youthful "total musical freak" whose less-than-ideal home life had led him to seek emotional refuge in Hollywood movies. "Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire became my best friends," he says. "I think that's why when I approach a musical role, I have such big respect for it - to honor my best friends [who helped me] to survive.

"I heard Sweeney Todd when I was about 15, maybe," he recalls, "and I loved the music. There was something destructive about it." The show's dark themes of betrayal and retribution struck a chord with him during his troubled youth. "I think I was carrying a lot of revenge feelings in myself. Not the killing, maybe," he laughs, but "revenge was something that was appealing to me - like with Sweeney."

Taking a more constructive approach, the Stockholm native channeled his energy into achieving early homeland success in Kristina från Duvemåla (1995-1998) by ABBA's Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, along with Lars Rudolfsson. Before long Jöback found himself in Cameron Mackintosh's employ for London productions of Miss Saigon (1997) and The Witches of Eastwick (2000). He's also recorded several charting singles and albums in English and Swedish, and in 2013 he made his Broadway debut in a four-month engagement in the title role of The Phantom of the Opera.

Though Jöback has not previously performed in a fully staged production of a Sondheim musical, he's consistently included individual songs from Merrily We Roll Along, Follies, Anyone Can Whistle and other Sondheim shows on his solo albums. …

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