Sunday, February 26, 2012

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" by Carnegie-Mellon University

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is a fan-favorite Sondheim musical built upon a British urban legend of a deranged barber who, seeking revenge on the world for the cruel fate of his beloved wife and daughter, slits the throats of men who come looking for a shave. Also embroiled in the story is a sexually deviant judge, a ruddy sailor and the female owner of the pie shop that would cannibalistically get rid of the bodies.

The production currently running at Carnegie-Mellon University is a dynamic mixture of spectacle and gore set in a gothic wonderland. That is to say, it is not to be missed. Director Joe Calarco takes the often-done production and transforms it into a complete departure from all that's known, making even entrances and exits unexpected and exciting (setting the tone for the entire night). However, while extremely innovative and new, nothing is neglected, from the opening stage picture to the final terror, to this whole, complete production.  If you can get a ticket, that is.

The most dynamic performances in the show go to the supporting roles. Marrick Smith gives new depth to the sailor, Anthony, as a young man who is impestuous and easily taken by passion instead of simply a Dudley-Do-Right. Corey Cott as Tobias captures the innocence and paranoia of a boy raised in abuse. Noah Plomgren as a scene-stealing Pirelli that makes you wish the character lived for a just a few more numbers. And Jessie Ryan Shelton as a sweet, docile, but ultimately very funny Johanna. Another sign of the production's level to detail, the Male and Female Ensemble steal the show at their various interludes and transformations as the town people of London, Pie devourers and, ultimately, Sweeney's victims. What is fantastic is that the Ensemble and Supporting roles (even those not mentioned here) are just as powerful, evocative singers and performers as the leads, making every moment of the production mezmerizing.

That being said, the most sucessful performances are the ones that give over to the extreme emotion that is within the music. Denver Milord who plays Sweeney Todd, while a flawless voice, seems to be holding something back. Also, he and Abdiel Vivancos, Judge Turpin, do not carry the work-weary/older bodies or age of their respective characters. However, Vivancos goes to the depravity of the controlling Judge while Milord's rage seems flimsy. Lucia Roderique, however, carries the age and world-weariness of Mrs. Lovett as epically as she sings.

Someone once said that a good set is one that you don't even notice, and this similarly goes for costumes, lights, sound, any production aspect. However, in this production, all these elements are an intractable piece that, where any of them altered or removed, the entire production would not be the same. It may still be a good production, maybe even great, but it would not be this production of Carnegie-Mellon's "Sweeney Todd". And this production is fantastic. In the interest of spoiling, the specifics will not be discussed here. Also, the running time is NOT two hours but, including the intermission, clocks in at about three. However, if you are unable to attend, don't let anybody tell you about it. It's better if you don't know what you miss.

Tickets for "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" at Carnegie-Mellon University cane be attempted at here:

Please Call the Box Office for Wait Listing Procedure.

- The Eponymous Theatre Critic enjoys a good tot of gin in front of a roaring fire of a chapel in which the harmonium will only be partially singed.

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