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Sweeney Todd

a Musical
by Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim; Book: Hugh Wheeler

COMPANY : Fabrefaction Theater Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Fabrefaction Theater [WEBSITE]
ID# 4153

SHOWING : October 25, 2011 - November 13, 2011



Fabrefaction Theatre Company brings Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's chilling, suspenseful, heart-pounding masterpiece of murderous barber-ism and culinary crime to the stage just in time for the Halloween season. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street recounts the infamous tale of an unjustly exiled barber who returns 19th-century London to seek revenge against those who wronged him. Originally focusing his malevolence on the lecherous judge who framed him and ravaged his young wife, his thirst for blood soon expands to include his unfortunate customers. A tale of retribution and obsession, Sweeney Todd serves up deliciously macabre portions of gruesome humor, sinister spite and suspicious meat pies. Presented as an intimate and highly theatrical ghost story, Director Alexander Greenfield's Sweeney Todd is visceral, intense drama with uncompromisingly dark humor.

Director Alexander Greenfield
Stage Manager Jordan Davis
Crew Natalie Hoak
Crew Jennifer Waldman
Music Director Nick Silvestri
The Beadle Daniel Burns
Tobias Ragg Daniel Collier
Anthony Hope Trey Getz
Beggar Woman Laura Hettinger
Judge Turpin Bryan Mercer
Mrs. Lovett Diane Mitchell
Johanna Lyndsay Ricketson
Pirelli / Fogg John Stanier
Sweeney Todd Clint Thornton
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Ghoulish and Macabre
by playgoer
Monday, October 31, 2011
"Sweeney Todd" is a gory, morbid tale of long-awaited, bloody revenge. Lay the story in a morgue, as Fabrefaction Theatre Company has done, and the ickiness factor doubles. This is a show that shrieks "Hallowe'en." It's perfect for the season of ghoulies and ghosties.

Make-up of all the characters (save Johanna) is ghastly pale, with skeletal shading around the eye sockets. Some costumes are shredded, and all (save Johanna's) are stained, although the bloodstains remain hidden behind mufflers or vests until the point of a character's death. There is no spilling of stage blood here, only the shriek of a factory whistle, a red light, and the actor's revealing of his/her bloodstain to mark a gruesome death. The dead then walk away, sometimes standing to the side as spectral spectators as the action continues.

Director Alexander Greenfield has chosen to perform "Sweeney Todd" with a mere nine actors. This requires doubling, tripling, and quadrupling of roles, with everyone joining in on the choral numbers. This keeps the action tight, and all focused on the central concept of the show: Johanna's beloved Anthony is dead, and she is contemplating suicide as a way to join him. Just as she makes her decision, the show proper begins, told almost in the form of a twisted bedtime story for Johanna, telling her the tale of how her parents met, lived, and died.

Design, action, and performances all support this concept, allowing an original take on a Stephen Sondheim musical that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It's thrilling to be swept into a story through a director's assured hand, in which all the elements meld into a unified whole. Even on opening weekend, when energy was undoubtedly flagging after a grueling tech week and adrenaline-fueled opening night, this unity of concept was palpable.

With such a small cast, all the performances need to be strong. Here, they are. Lyndsay Ricketson is a charming Johanna, yet one sometimes verging on the madness of her mother. Laura Hettinger, as the Beggar Woman, combines madness with a glorious soprano voice. Daniel Collier exudes a sweet simpleness as Tobias, while Daniel Burns projects menace as the Beadle. John Stanier adds a few notes of comedy as Pirelli, and Diane R. Mitchell mines the comedy in her role of Mrs. Lovett, while adding an undercurrent of desperate ruthlessness. Trey Getz's Anthony Hope and Bryan Mercer's Judge Turpin eschew any comedy, with Mr. Getz's soaring baritone and Mr. Mercer's near rasp adding contrast to the vocal quality of the show. Clint Thornton's Sweeney Todd strongly resembles Oscar Wilde, which took some getting used to on my part, but his strong voice and performance won me over.

Musical accompaniment, under the direction of Nick Silvestri, is first rate. Acoustics are not great in Fabrefaction's wide, open performance space, and the sound balance between orchestra and actor is not always optimal, varying from actor to actor. It helps to be familiar with the score, just to be able to distinguish the words that you know are being sung, but cannot always distinguish. It helps that some choral lines become solo lines in this production, due to the small cast.

This is not a perfect production, but it is a perfect production for the Hallowe'en season. Prepare for headless bodies to be pulled out of morgue drawers and for zombie-like corpses to come to life. And prepare for the voices of angels to spring from the slit throats of these inhabitants of Hell. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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