THE OPERA HOUSE PLAYERS, INC.
Based on a Version of “Sweeney Todd” by Christopher Boyd
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Direction by Anna Giza
Music Direction by Tony Romero
NOVEMBER 12, 13, 14; 91, 20, 21; 26, 27, 28, 2010
FRIDAYS & SATURDAYS 8:00 PM
SUNDAYS 2:00 PM
ADULTS: $21.00 OVER 60/UNDER 12: $17.00
REVIEWED BY B. K. GRANT
In The Annual Register of London in 1785, an entry read: “A most remarkable murder was perpetrated in the following manner by a journeyman barber that lived near Hyde Park Corner, who had been for a long time past jealous of his wife…” And so began the infamous tale of Sweeney Todd. Since 1936, “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” has graced the screen and stage more than a dozen times, entertaining audiences on this continent and abroad.
The Broad Brook Opera House is again offering outstanding entertainment, the Opera House Players’ production of Sweeney Todd. Anna Giza (director/choreographer) and Tony Romeo (musical direction) have packaged a winner; the set design is ingenious and the costuming spot on for Victorian London. The innovative lighting technique highlighting specific moments adds to the excitement of this dark musical thriller.
In the prologue, the entire company opens with ‘The Ballad of Sweeney Todd’:
“Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd. He served a dark and a vengeful god...”
giving one a peek into Todd ’s character. Steve Wandzy in the title role nails this gloomy character, and a definite contrast is seen when, during Act One’s first number ‘No place like London’, Anthony (Eric Rehm), a young sailor, is jubilant about his arrival, while Todd contemplates his next step. In this number, a beggar woman makes her first appearance, tickling the audience’s funny bone. Grace Spelman (Longmeadow High 2010 grad) is exceptional in her portrayal of this slightly warped soul, and later we witness she has the voice of an angel.
Mrs. Lovett, Todd’s neighbor and Fleet Street’s meat pie lady, makes her entrance in ‘The Worst Pies in London’. Erica Romeo more than fills the bill as a well-endowed widow struggling to make ends meet. She is a natural in this role and her on-stage antics frequently extract hearty laughter from the viewers. Mrs. Lovett delivers her musical numbers with an English accent, and, referring to her baking skills, warns, “I hope your teeth are strong!” Thanks to her saving the tools of his trade when known as Benjamin Barker, Sweeney Todd is soon to be in business again.
The scene changes are smooth and the ensemble frequently reprises the Ballad of Sweeney Todd:
“…What happens then – well, that’s the play, And he wouldn’t want us to give it away,…”
Well, maybe a little. Winning a shaving contest between Todd and Italian barber Adolfo Pirelli (played by a debonair Tim Reilly) allows Todd to reinstate himself as the town's barber, and fuels the fire for his vengeful plan. Pirelli reveals to Todd that at one time he was in the employ of Benjamin Barker and they now should become business partners; the partnership is very short. Todd later discovers his daughter Johanna (played beautifully by Janet Pohli) is the ward of Judge Turpin who unjustly sent him into exile; his mission is to eliminate the judge (superbly played by Jonathan Trecker) and rescue his daughter. His vengeance extends to mankind in general; and collaboration with Mrs. Lovett proves appealing. The riotous ‘pie tasting’ skit has Mrs. Lovett. and Todd enjoying the many flavors and textures of her craft - “…a li’l bit stringy…he was a violinist !...”.
Act Two opens with ‘God, That’s Good’ set in Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop. She dotes on many customers, the shop has a new look, she has a new dress, Business is looking up. She begins to make plans ‘By the Sea’ for herself and Sweeney, at the same time realizing those plans will never materialize due to his obsession with retribution. As the company reprises ’The Ballad of Sweeney Todd’ for the Epilogue, the entire stage fills with smoke from the bake house on London’s Fleet Street. The ending, and this is where I stop ‘giving it away’, sent a shiver down this reviewer's spine.
This PG-13 production is a definite ‘must see’ for the music, for the acting, for the set design –for the whole enchilada !
Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.
He served a dark and a vengeful god.
What happens then – well, that's the play,
And he wouldn't want us to give it away,
Not Sweeney Todd.
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Stephen Sondheim and Hugn Wheeler's SWEENEY TODD tells the tale of the unjustly exiled barber who returns to London seeking revenge against the judge who framed him and ravaged his young wife. His thirst for blood soon extends to his unfortunate customers, and the resourceful owner of the pie shop downstars soon has people lining up in droves because of her mysterious new meat pie recipe.