Sunday Night Sondheim: “Not While I’m Around”

If someone asked me what my favorite Sondheim song is, I would say without hesitation “Not While I’m Around”, from my favorite Stephen Sondheim show Sweeney Todd.  Reminiscing – I was a junior in high school in Rapid City, SD, when my English teacher came to me, asking if I wanted to compete in the state speech contest (in the doubles division), using an excerpt from  “A Little Priest”.  Now I had never heard of Sweeney Todd, and I have to admit that I really didn’t know who Steven Sondheim was either (horrors!).    So my teacher let me borrow his Sweeney Todd album, and I instantly fell in love with the show and with Sondheim. 

This video is from the original Broadway production, with Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett, and Ken Jennings as Toby (Tobias Ragg).  

I like to go through the YouTube comments posted below the video, and one entry mentioned that the guy playing Toby (Ken Jennings) seemed to be way too old for the part.  Here’s one of the responses to this comment:

Ken Jennings was about 32 when the show opened, and 35 when the video
of the touring company was made, a far cry from the teenage boy he was
playing! And yet he’s utterly convincing in the role. 

I always thought of Tobias as a man with the mind of a boy.  Also, he was cast in the part so far in advance, so we know that Sondheim wrote the music for Toby with Ken’s voice in mind.