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‘It's Man Devouring Man, My Dear’: Studying The Musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street As Multimedia Adaptation

HUGHES, ADAM (2020) ‘It's Man Devouring Man, My Dear’: Studying The Musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street As Multimedia Adaptation. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Described by John Kander as a ‘theater of adaptations’, works of commercial musical theatre are predominantly products of cross-media adaptation. Film, theatre, television, literature, and visual art: musical theatre takes inspiration and narrative from broad sources.

Within current musical theatre scholarship, the musical’s status as a product of cross-media adaptation is acknowledged but has to-date received little focused investigation. Of the published studies that do discuss musical theatre adaptation, many adopt a fidelity-based model of comparative analysis. Studies of this type often, either explicitly or implicitly, treat the musical as an imitation of its source material; faithfulness to the original text is used as a measure of its success as a work of musical theatre. Within this context the process of adaptation is represented in simple terms in which replication of the source is viewed as the musical’s goal.

In this thesis I study the musical Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street as an example of multimedia adaptation. I investigate the process of cross-media adaptation undertaken to transform the hypotext –Bond’s Sweeney Todd – into the hypertext– the musical. To do so I apply Nicholas Cook’s theory of musical multimedia as an analytical framework and draw on semiotic, narratological and musicological analysis techniques. I consider how the meaning, specifically the socio-economic critique, of the originary text are adapted into the musical theatre art form.

Employing a combination of analytical perspectives, I argue that Sweeney Todd can be understood as a complex multimedia product in which each constituent medium is responding to the source material in a distinct fashion and by analysing each in isolation a fuller understanding of the overall work can be formed.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:Stephen Sondheim; Sweeney Todd; multimedia; musical theatre; Nicholas Cook; Thomas Pavel; Semiotics; Popular Music Studies
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Jan 2020 11:09

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