In review: ‘Sweeney Todd’ tragedy gruesome, yet gore-less
With such sinful themes as lust, greed, wrath, pride and envy, it’s no wonder that the eponymous character in the epic tale of “Sweeney Todd” is known as the demon barber of Fleet Street.
The story starts with a barber and his wife living happily in Victorian London when an unscrupulous judge, who desires the barber’s wife, exiles him, assaults his wife and takes his daughter, setting off a merciless revenge scheme. The barber, Todd, returns to London years later and partners with a local, enterprising pie shop owner who helps him enact his twisted justice.
It takes talent to make the gruesome murders of several people and the use of their corpses as the secret ingredient in the most popular meat pies in town entertaining, but the cast of the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” more than pulls it off.
When Todd, played by Kyle Adams, first steps off the boat in London, he is forlorn after having everything in his life stripped from him, but over the course of the first act, he becomes ever more bloodthirsty and insatiable.
However, he is somewhat overshadowed by his partner in crime, Mrs. Lovett. Played by Sophie Grimm, she not only provides much of the comedic relief in the show, but also performs the best musical numbers. Grimm exudes the unrequited lust Mrs. Lovett has for Todd, but like him, she is determined to accomplish an agenda.
Mrs. Lovett’s omissions and guidance lead Todd down his murderous path, where he meets competing barber and spectacular showman Adolfo Pirelli, played by Neil Stratman, and kicks off the killing spree.
Todd soon crosses paths again with the sinister Judge Turpin, who exiled him, and his wheedling assistant the Beadle, played by Josh Levinson and Michael E. Martin, respectively, and Todd begins concocting a plan to lure them to his shop and their untimely deaths.
Meanwhile, Todd’s daughter Johanna, played by Natalie Schaffer, is hidden away at Judge Turpin’s house, where she meets the young sailor Anthony, played by Andrew Greiche, who brought Todd back to London. The two begin a romance, and their innocent love creates the perfect foil to Todd’s suffering and evil actions.
Each character feels more complete thanks to thoughtful costumes and the hair and makeup. Ominous orchestra music rounds out each scene and sets the tone.
While the show is chock full of strong individual performances and beautifully executed musical numbers, it falls short in one important way — there’s no gore. The theater production instead uses splashes of red light and a tolling bell to mark the deaths, which is unsatisfying for the supposed demon barber of Fleet Street.
The production sets up the murders well with the excellent use of a prop barber chair and hidden slide, but without some red corn syrup or exploding ribbons, the deaths were disappointing.
Despite the anemic production, Rocky Mountain Rep’s performance captures the tragic essence of the story. On the surface this play seems to be warning about the cruelty and unfairness of the world, but pay close attention and audiences will also be reminded of the senselessness of violence and the dangers of obsession and greed.
This show contains mature adult content, including language and situations.
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