Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
We could get use to this.
For the second season in a row, Uptown Players, gay Dallas' favorite theater company, has collaborated with the award-winning, world renown all male chorus, Turtle Creek Chorale in presenting a concert version of a big Broadway musical. This year's production was Stephen Sondheim's Grand Guignol masterpiece "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." And this terrorizing tale is terrific.
"Sweeney Todd" tells the revenge tale of a man who lost his family and was falsely imprisoned for fifteen years due to a lascivious and covetous judge.
Upon returning to London, Sweeney is reacquainted with Mrs. Lovett, a meat pie proprietress whose shop is directly below where Sweeney and his family lived long ago. Mrs. Lovett tells Sweeney what happened to his family; his wife poisoned herself and his daughter was adopted and is the ward of the above-mentioned judge.
While waiting to execute his revenge, Sweeney continues his descent into madness and murder providing a tasty business arrangement and supplies for Mrs. Lovett's suddenly successful meat pie shop.
Sondheim's score oozes drama and anticipation with each note. Sondheim cruelly juxtaposes the two most melodic songs ("Pretty Women" and "Johanna") with violent on-stage acts (symbolically represented with effective lighting design in this production.)
The riveting songs "Epiphany" and "A Little Priest" at the end of Act One remains one of theaters most emotional, disturbing and delicious combinations.
The Turtle Creek Chorale plays the part of a Greek chorus emphasizing the storytelling aspect of Sondheim's lyrics demanding the audience to "attend the tale of Sweeney Todd." Director Michael Serrecchia stages the chorale effectively and simply. The chorale accentuates the ominous score but never distracts the audience from the tale.
Brian Mathis slashes his way through the thriller as the title character. Mathis' Sweeney is intimidating and dangerous. Mathis' voice and performance are thrilling.
Jenny Thurman plays Mrs. Lovett and hits each much-needed comedic hook and phrase with precision. Thurman doesn't consistently conquer every syncopated note or nimble lyric. But for a rich character like Mrs. Lovett's capturing the humors and pragmatic feelings behind the lyrics is just as important and this is where Thurman shines.
Kristen Lassiter plays Sweeney's daughter Johanna. Lassiter beautifully plays up Johanna's innocence and eagerness to fly from the judge's claws. Lassiter is well matched by the strong pure voice of John Campione who plays the sailor Anthony who yearns to set Johanna free. Peter DiCesare makes a brief but comically memorable Pirelli, a former employee and would-be-blackmailer of Sweeney.
You would do well to attend this tale of "Sweeney Todd."
"Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street" played through April 26 at The Dallas City Performance Hall, 2520 Flora Street in Dallas. For info about upcoming Turtle Creek Chorale events visit www.turtlecreek.org. For info about upcoming Uptown Players productions visit Uptownplayers.org