This is my first time seeing Sweeney Todd, I’m rather ashamed to say.
Being British I know the story of course. I’ve seen the film, with Johnny Depp, which I loved and I’ve even seen the BBC production with Ray Winston, which was wonderful and in which Ray doesn't sing…which is probably a good thing for us and Mr Winston. I’m even somewhat familiar with some of the songs, my son-in-law is a huge musical geek…but I never actually got around to seeing it ‘live’, if you’ll excuse the pun.
But boy am I glad I finally did!
This is a huge musical, and is usually performed by huge companies, on huge stages and with huge budget But this production, on this smaller scale, gives us a much more intimate and more terrifying interpretation.
Kelrik productions, now residents of the El Portal Theatre, are producing this iconic show, the well-deserved receiver of the Tony and the Olivier Awards. The Monroe Forum Theatre, the smaller of the two auditoriums at the El Portal, is the perfect, shadowy setting for this stunning musical. The deep darkness, the seating curving around the elevated, stylized structure playing the part of the barber shop above the pie shop, also becoming Joanna’s balcony and bedroom and various other scenes within the play, is a brilliant and inventive use of space. It cunningly reminds us all how close and claustrophobic London was back then, the mud and the stench, everyone piling on top of one another, like rats on a sinking ship.
We are so close to these wonderful actors and yet they seem perfectly comfortable, lost within the filthy world of London in 1846.
They prance and cower and preen and scream and all to the beautiful music, provided by excellent and unseen musicians.
The play opens with a beggar women, played brilliantly by Kendra Mungar, wandering about the stage, a women pivotal to the play, and present for most of it but dismissed by everyone, including the audience. Her tattered clothes and sunken features and desperate lunacy belie her true nature and act as a mirror to all the characters as they descend through their lives, deeper and deeper into madness.
The story of revenge in a universal one. Possession, obsession and a failure to see what can redeem us, even when it is right in front of us, is something we can all recognize.
These characters might seem outlandish and their actions mythological, but they are not so different from you and I and this is why this story works so well. Just how far away from killing and eating our enemies are any of us?
A little further than Sweeney Todd was, let us hope!
The cast were truly magnificent. I was prepared for some bad English accents, but I was really impressed!
And those members of the cast who chose not to try, I salute you! It really didn't matter at all, the blend of voices worked brilliantly, after all, London was a big mish mash of accents anyway, still is in fact.
The ensemble were bold and brilliant and fabulously varied in age and form and again reflected the colorful reality of the story. Sondheim is tricky to sing, twisted and strange and uniquely inspired and this group of actors took him on with relish.
As for Mrs. Lovett, which has to be said is one of the most delicious female roles ever created...
The aptly named Alison England was so good I am having trouble trying to find words sufficiently rapturous. Suffice it to say, she ‘was’ Mrs Lovett, in all her terrible and heartbreaking wonder. And what a voice!
Douglas Ladnier plays Sweeney Todd himself. Douglas sings with passion and pain. He takes complete control of this character and with a coolness that captivates, convinces us that his absolute sense of loss drives him and in the end defines him.
Chuck McCollum plays Judge Turpin with creepy conviction, bravely flagellating himself onstage and giving over to the depravity of this character completely…no one weeps when he gets his just desserts that's for sure.
Craig McEldowney was absolutely sublime as Beadle. Obviously delighting in the twisted and unredeemable character, I adored despising him and again, a spectacular voice.
And speaking of spectacular, Matt Steele was exactly that as the sweet Tobias. His face a vision of hope and love, so pure he almost saves Mrs. Lovett, but not quite.
Pirelli was played with flamboyant abandon by Mark Rohner. Brilliant casting, and what a fantastically believable villain he makes…and another wonderful voice!
This show is so strong. The director Kristen Towers-Rowles has given us a gift. The deceptively simple set, the incredible costumes, truly superb music and sound and a cast that Broadway would envy. I hope they pack the house to the rafters every night, they absolutely deserve to.
I highly recommend Sweeney Todd, The Barber of Fleet Street.
If you want a rollicking, bloody and heart achingly beautifully sung, passion-filled evening, then rush to get your tickets, Sweeney Todd is waiting to give you the closest shave of your life!
Tickets are $30 and are available at: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/943900
PERFORAMCE TIMES AND DATES
Friday April 10 @ 8PM
Saturday April 11 @ 8PM
Sunday April 12 @ 7PM
Friday April 17 @ 8PM
Saturday April 18 @ 8PM
Sunday April 19 @ 7PM
Friday April 24 @ 8PM
Saturday April 25 @ 8PM
Sunday April 26 @ 7PM
Friday May 1 @ 8PM
Saturday May 2 @ 8PM
Sunday May 3 @ 7PM
Friday May 8 @ 8PM
Saturday May 9 @ 8PM
Sunday May 10@ 7PM
Sweeney Todd - *Douglas Ladnier
Mrs. Lovett - *Alison England
Beggar Woman - *Kendra Munger
Judge Turpin - *Chuck McCollum
Beadle - *Craig McEldowney
Johanna - Devon Davidson
Anthony - *Alxander Jon
Tobias - *Matt Steele
Pirelli - Mark Rohner
*Hector S. Quintana- Sweeney U/S
*Anibal Silveyra - Beadle U/S
Marty Feldman - Judge U/S
Michael D’Elia - Anthony U/S
Antonio Ardolino - Tobias U/S
Kelly Meyersfield- Mrs. Lovett U/S
Rachel Hirshee - Johanna U/S
*Lena Gwendolyn Hill - Beggar Woman U/S
Melinda Ehrlich - Quintet Soprano, Featured Soloist
*Denotes members of Actors' Equity Association
Directed by Kristin Towers-Rowles
Musical Directed by Joe Lawrence
Assistant Directed by Stephanie Fredricks
Stage Managed by Samantha Marie
Set Design by Erik Austin
Costume Design By Michael Mullen