THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET
I haven’t seen a show this good since Wicked at New York’s Gershwin Theater. I don’t care if you “don’t like musicals;” you will love this production of Sweeney Todd. (No one is paying me to say this.)
Everything was brilliant: the actors, the vocals, the set, the costumes—not to mention that the music is played by Grammy-nominated DeVotchKa, a four-piece multi-instrumental and vocal ensemble, originally from Denver.
TALENT REVIEW, IN A NUTSHELL
The show was outstanding. The cast—especially the singer-actors who play Sweeney Todd, Mrs. Lovett, Anthony Hope, and Tobias Ragg—are incredibly impeccable performers. Some people really stood out:
- Sweeney Todd‘s voice was perfection and acting was next-level professional. (played by Robert Petkoff. And he is a film and true Shakespearean actor, which shows.)
- Mrs. Lovett‘s comedic timing was on-point (played by Linda Mugleston, with an obvious classical voice background despite the belted solos)
- Anthony Hope‘s breath control is… kind of scary-good. I had to laugh at how absurdly at ease his whole body was while singing. (played by Daniel Berryman)
- Tobias Ragg‘s commitment to his character—an adorable bounce, a sweet naiveté, and a cheerful optimism amidst abuse and chaos—was absolutely endearing. (played by Kevin Curtis)
- Johanna‘s voice was not as solid as the other singers’, but her ridiculous beauty and subtle expressions were captivating. (played by Samantha Bruce)
- Pirelli‘s vocal timbre was operatic, dramatic, and—to make up my own term—exquisitely tenorfull. (played by Michael Brian Dunn)
Broadway-level talent isn’t just found on Broadway, folks.
THE STORY, IN MY OWN WORDS
The story of Sweeney Todd is a London urban legend which was originally written about in a Victorian penny dreadful (aka an old-school, cheap, comic-like story) entitled The String of Pearls, back in circa 1846. No one knows if Sweeney Todd is based on a real person or not… Hm. Queue the Twilight Zone theme song!
To make a long story short (without any spoilers!), a corrupt judge sends a barber named Benjamin Barker to a faraway prison for 15 years so that the judge can prey upon Barker’s wife (who, at the time, has a newborn daughter, Johanna).
After 15 years, Barker returns under the alias Sweeney Todd, in order to go unnoticed as he plots murderous revenge against the judge and find his long-lost wife and daughter.
He learns that the judge indeed defiled his wife, leaving her crazed and destitute, and that she eventually poisoned herself. (Ugh, so sad.) Revenge-mode is kicked up a few notches.
He teams up with the selfishly-minded Mrs. Lovett, who owns the meat-pie shop above which his old Fleet Street apartment lies.
Due to his pent-up fiery rage, Sweeney Todd impulsively slits the throat of a blackmailing competitor (Pirelli) who threatens to air Todd’s true identity, aka ruin his entire revenge plot. After hiding Pirelli’s body, Todd and Mrs. Lovett adopt Pirelli’s young helper boy, Tobias Ragg, and realize:
- everyone is a terrible person and deserves to die (a screw-it-all-to-hell mentality)
- they can put the dead bodies to good use in Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies (and save money!)
- their end-goal is to lure the judge into Sweeney Todd’s barber chair and enact sweet revenge.
Surprise, surprise: Things don’t go quite as planned. And Sweeney Todd’s vengeful rage returns to inflict more pain upon himself… Karma is a B, Sweeney.
THE MUSIC, IN MY OPINION
Sondheim is a musical-storytelling genius. The melodies and quick, patter-like recitative hauntingly fit the eerie mood of the show—on-edge heart beat included. It’s also catchy… and many of the numbers, especially performed by Mrs. Lovett’s character, are hilarious. Dark comedy at its finest—mocking the evil tendencies of even the most well-intentioned human beings.
I saw these guys open for The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks Amphitheater a few years ago, and I was blown away. Getting to see them so up-close-and-personal (I was sitting five inches from the stage, level with the actors’ shoes) was such a bonus! A professional musical theater production + a live concert! Win-win.
THE FUN EXTRAS
The performance was held on The Stage Theater, the largest theater in the Helen Bonfils Theater Complex—on which I hope to perform one day. We were delighted to learn that the concessions allow you to take your wine into the theater in plastic cups with lids and straws so you can drink your vino during the show! You also could order your intermission wine ahead of time and skip the line. I don’t know about you, but this is how you win my heart.
They also had a barber’s chair for dorky photo ops. Yes, I went for it. No shame:
Just, go. It runs through May 15th!
Learn more here. Enjoy!