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Review: Attend the Tale of Stephen Sondheim's Masterpiece at SPC: SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

“To hunt revenge might result in hell/However everybody does it, regardless that seldom as neatly/As Sweeney/As Sweeney Todd/The Demon Barber of Fleet . . . Side road!” –from “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”

When Stephen Sondheim gave up the ghost the day after Thanksgiving remaining 12 months on the age of 92, it was extra than simply the main Web page One demise of a celeb or artist; it felt like we misplaced a member of the circle of relatives. How, I puzzled, are we able to recover from one of these super loss? The solution to that query was obvious after observing the St. Petersburg Faculty Theatre Division’s jaw-droppingly ingenious manufacturing of SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. I noticed that, even though Sondheim shall be overwhelmingly neglected for years yet to come, he has such all kinds of works left at the back of that we will continuously rejoice him. And SWEENEY TODD is his inarguable masterpiece.

In SWEENEY TODD (song and lyrics by means of Stephen Sondheim; e-book by means of Hugh Wheeler), a naive barber named Benjamin Barker is sentenced to existence on a far flung island after an unscrupulous pass judgement on, having the hots for Sweeney’s younger spouse, despatched him away on trumped up fees. Benjamin escapes and returns years later as a brand new guy with a brand new identify, Sweeney Todd, with only one objective: Kill the pass judgement on. With the assistance of his neighbors, Mrs. Lovett, whose having trade troubles along with her meat pie eating place (she can not to find anything else to fill the pies, now not even stray cats), he’s there to precise vengeance at the pass judgement on. But if issues fall thru, Sweeney comes to a decision to kill anybody he sees, and in the long run the sufferers’ our bodies are flooring up with the intention to discover a new objective in demise. Mrs. Lovett’s trade quickly succeeds, and Sweeney, with the assistance of a tender seaman named Anthony, will have to save his daughter, Johanna, now within the clutches of the vile pass judgement on.

I will have to upload a SPOILER ALERT to this assessment for somebody who does now not know this display (who’re you?) Like Soylent Inexperienced, individuals are gobbled as key ingrediants of Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies in SWEENEY TODD. Sure, there are lots of slit throats; sure, there’s quite a lot of blood splattering the degree like a collaboration between Jackson Pollack and Charles Manson; and sure, consumers like to devour the ones delicious Soylent Greeny meat pies. However the display is ready one thing else. It is without doubt one of the key artworks concerning the dire penalties of obsessions: Obsession for revenge (Sweeney); Obsession for romancing Sweeney (Mrs. Lovett); obsession for Johanna (Anthony and, ewww, the Pass judgement on, her surrogate dad); obsession for get away (Johanna); obsession for satisfying the Pass judgement on (Beadle); and obsession for pulling a quick con (Pirelli). Handiest Tobias, Pirelli’s carnival barker toady, is simply too dim to obsess. However those obsessions result in dangerous, dangerous issues, basically demise.

Scott Cooper, the miracle running director and set clothier at SPC, has outdone himself right here. Operating only with college-age and highschool scholars, and doing it in simply 5 weeks, he has fixed a display simply as spectacular as his earlier best summer time providing, Urinetown, in 2018. He boasts a refreshing visionary take in this vintage paintings, and having noticed quite a lot of SWEENEY TODD productions over time, together with the disappointing movie model, I have by no means skilled one fairly like this one. Set within the 1930’s Despair Technology (100 years after the Dickensian Technology, when SWEENEY TODD generally takes position), the tale is narrated in tune by means of sufferers from an insane asylum. Separately, like tattered zombies, the solid slowly seem onstage prior to the display, the asylum inmates hidden in shadows. Some crouch down, masking their ears, and rock backward and forward. Others chortle out of nowhere. Some stroll inconsistently as though a serpent has entered their spines. One affected person even will get electro-shock treatment. It is disquieting stuff, and the display hasn’t even begun but. The inmates pop up all over the paintings, shifting units, deliver on props, and all the time preserving us up to date at the blood-soaked shenanigans; in addition they remind us by means of their mere horrific appearances that the area round Sweeney-the international round us all-is a loopy position certainly. They flip a typical SWEENEY TODD right into a veritable One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

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Main the way in which on this manufacturing is Myth Rowell within the name position. That is not like maximum performances of Sweeney I have witnessed. Rowell begins off reasonably quiet, very human, and grows increasingly psychotic because the display rages on. I really like this humanly means, which is even alluded to on the finish of the display: “In all probability these days you gave a nod/To Sweeney Todd/The demon barber of Fleet Side road.” Rowell resembles anyone chances are you’ll cross in the street, even nodding to them, which makes their tale much more chilling. If a sane, albeit obsessive soul like Sweeney can develop into a serial killer, then somebody can.

There is an example when Rowell has slit one among his buyer’s throats, and their frame has chuted out of the barber chair. Sweeney, retaining the guy’s hat, seems to be into the outlet, and in a unprecedented second of darkish pleasure, drops it. It is a ultimate second, comparable to a mic drop set in hell. And in a well-known scene that includes Pirelli, the place Sweeney accuses the charlatan of fraud, Sweeney sniffs the bottle or even takes a sip prior to pointing out it is made with “piss and ink.” It jogged my memory of the “Bagman” episode of Higher Name Saul, the place the name persona has to drink his personal pee within the wilderness; the Sweeney target audience howled in disgusted pleasure at this sudden second.

Rowell’s voice is in best form, and he towers over the solid, over the display. His giant love tune (“My Pals”) is dementedly sung to his razors; he loves them such a lot, he turns out to nearly include them. Despite the fact that I pass over a British accessory from the nature (it takes position in London), and a few of Rowell’s strains were given misplaced within the shuffle because of talking too rapid and now not enunciating the ends of phrases, that did not trouble me. He is so in persona, so immovable in his obsessions, that it turns into a star-making position, assembly or even surpassing the possible I noticed in him 3 years in the past at Gibbs Prime College.

Within the display, Sweeney sports activities a man-bun, and there is one example the place I want Rowell made a special selection. As Act 1 is coming to an in depth, Sweeney sings the show-stopping “Epiphany,” one of the crucial scariest songs ever written. And so they sing it fantastically, and I noticed that the quiet particular person has now grown right into a shouting creature, a killing gadget. The target audience used to be fearful right into a hushed silence prior to a strong ovation after the tune. However all the way through it, Rowell’s man-bun had develop into undone and their lengthy hair flowed over the face, making them seem like Richard Rimirez enjoying the Joker. It is scary, and I noticed how achieved Rowell’s efficiency used to be, how discovered the gradual construct have been. However then they did one thing that negated all of that. After the tune, they tied the man-bun again into position, reasonably than going all-in as a new-found monster, the place there is no turning again of their serial killing want (“All of them need to die/Even you, Mrs. Lovett/Even I…”). “Epiphany” is a life-changing quantity, and the nature mustn’t return to the outdated Sweeney afterwards, even though the hair mask the face. The tying the man-bun again into position was too tidy, too great; it offers the target audience a breather after such an intense quantity. And there will have to be no relaxation, no breather, in this rollercoaster journey of terror. Sweeney has long past too some distance to show again now.

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Carli Kosloski is a revelation as Mrs. Lovett. Along with her purple Bozo hair, like an inferno circling her head, a flaming cyclone crown for this queen of she-devils, she makes evil so pleasing, bringing out the jokey villainy of the section and in addition her deep eager for a guy like Sweeney, even though he seems to be an executioner of the average folks (perhaps she’s interested in him as a result of he performs their executioner). Consider Seven Beauties’ Shirley Stoler enjoying Magenta in The Rocky Horror Image Display, and also you get an concept of this drive of nature. Her “Worst Pies in London,” as she kills pugs along with her rolling pin, is sensational, as is her “By means of the Sea,” sung whilst she’s gleefully sprucing sharp knives. Make no mistake; that is simply one of the crucial best possible performances I have noticed all 12 months.

Ethan White is remarkably alive and filled with verve as Anthony Hope, the actual hero of the story. However there is something wild about him; he can not include his thrill at falling in love. When he sings for his love, Johanna, to “take a look at me, take a look at me!” he hops across the degree as though he drank one Pink Bull too many. And when he leaves Sweeney’s barber store, he jumps down the steps like an excitable kid on Christmas morning.

Autumn McNew is superb and actual because the apple of Anthony’s eye, Johanna. Donning blonde hair, she resembles a tender Mary Pickford and turns out angelic; her voice, as showcased in “Inexperienced Finch and Linnet Hen,” is actually beautiful.

Jason Calzon is memorable and fairly efficient because the cad, Pirelli, who will get to make use of multiple accessory. Alexander Gault seems to be the a part of the enforcing Beadle, nevertheless it used to be from time to time onerous to grasp him. Eileen Lee is terrific because the Beggar Girl with a thriller or two. And Jay Overlin sounds excellent because the evil Pass judgement on Turpin, however he comes throughout approach too younger. And Overlin performs the section like a Bond baddie reasonably than probably the most sinister characters to grace any musical. Now and then I assumed he used to be enjoying the section like Cladwell from Urinetown reasonably than SWEENEY TODD’S maximum evil and intimidating persona.

Covid driven its approach into this efficiency when the younger actor portraying Tobias were given in poor health only a hand filled with days prior to opening. By no means worry, Ian Clark is right here to the rescue! Clark’s Tobias is a hapless soul, and he performs him marvelously. His scream after seeing a lifeless frame become comedian gold. I simplest want his microphone did not stay reducing out all the way through his giant tune, “No longer Whilst I am Round.” However Clark stored the day, and I knew his victory used to be whole when anyone within sight me requested after the display, “Which one of the crucial solid needed to understudy a task?” After I informed them it used to be yon Mr. Clark as Tobias, they have been stunned; he had achieved such an admirable, skilled activity…and he had simply discovered the section 4 days previous. Now that is a miracle!

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All the ensemble of asylum inmates used to be sensational as neatly: Levi Erickson, Farrell Nuon, Allison Calabrese, Ella Jurusz, Maria Lara, Kiana Sipe, Jake Tottle, Preston Kifer, Ellery Pollack, Riley Evans, Isaiah Lizano, Charlie Lane, Kelsey Williams, Sierra Sharp, Parker Bayne, Noah Arcilla and Hope Lelekacs. Because of song director Latoya McCormick, their harmonies are bloody excellent. Particular point out will have to be paid to Chloe Mastro, who will get my award for Easiest Ensemble Member. You’ll be able to’t take your eyes off of her within the ensemble scenes-she commits to the section 100% and is all the time ALWAYS in persona, from time to time frighteningly so. Ms. Mastro proves that you simply should not have to be a number one position to be rewarded for doing magnificent paintings.

The display is a banquet for techies. Katrina Stevenson’s costumes swimsuit the Despair Technology neatly. Scott Cooper’s set is a creepy pleasure, darkish and eerie, a spot the place angels worry to tread (with willing lend a hand from Celeste N. Silby Mannerud’s lights design). It additionally occurs to be one among Mr. Cooper’s best possible units, which is in point of fact pronouncing one thing. The barber chair, that at last chutes Sweeney’s sufferers into the bake area, were given applause when first of all activated, as did the blood spraying around the degree at a number of durations. This isn’t a musical for the squeamish, so you’re going to by no means mistake it for Frozen Jr. except Elsa comes to a decision to slice Olaf’s and Anna’s throats.

This manufacturing on the SPC Clearwater campus closes on Sunday, June 26th, and tickets (a $15 donation) may also be bought on the door. So attend the story of SWEENEY TODD for the performances (each leads and ensemble), for the fantastic set designs, for that tale that resonates extra now than ever. It’s going to end up an out of this world enjoy and provide you with hope for the longer term. However maximum necessary of all, come see it to rejoice the forty-third anniversary of the best paintings by means of the best musical theatre artist of the previous 5 many years, a guy who, on the age of 92, nonetheless left us approach too quickly.