“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” tells comedy musical tale of tribulation, love and insanity set in Victorian London
Published online on Feb. 14, 2018
Sweeney Todd is melodrama set to music at its nth degree. It’s worth making the ride up to downtown San Jose and see it now playing at The Stage. Stephan Sondheim’s music and Hugh Wheeler’s book brings this tawdry classic of Victorian English life with a malicious, humorous tweak, that will shock the squeamish and tickle the fun house, gore seeking riders
The macabre story of Sweeney Todd, the notorious killer barber who set up shop in London’s Fleet Street, can be traced back as far back as an 1825 article in the Tell-Tale magazine called “The Terrible Story of the Rue la Harpe.” That story was in turn taken from an earlier account in Joseph Fouche’s “Archives of the People.” Finally, Christopher Bond’s adaptation in 1973 in London finally found its way to Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler who honed it into an award winning musical comedy production sweeping eight Tony’s for the 1997 season, which included Angela Landsbury’s insufferably almost loveable Mrs. Lovett.
The story is as convoluted as the most tangled soap opera, but the characters are defined and the main idea is crystal clear. Sweeney Todd (Noel Anthony) has just returned to London after escaping prison in Australia where he was sentenced to life for a crime he did not commit. The former barber has only one thing on his mind: cold revenge against the corrupt Judge Turpin (Christopher Vettel) and the Beadle Bamford (Branden Noel Thomas) who framed him, had his way with his wife and drove her mad, stole his daughter to raise as his own. If this isn’t enough, he teams up with the astoundingly, equally demented Mrs. Lovett (Allison F. Rich), a down and out baker of “the worst pies in London” who lives under his barbershop. Together they cook up a hilariously macabre revenge scheme that fulfils both their needs. Comedy, tribulation, love and insanity with an interesting score and lyrics, (nothing you will go home whistling), blend brilliantly in this excellent production. Director Kenneth Kelleher moves the production with a tight fist and keeps everything moving – just on the edge of complete chaos.
The Stage does a lot with what they have and scenic artist Lara Lenta with Scenic and Lighting Designer Michael Palumbo uses every nook and cranny in interesting well-blended ways with rolling boxes and a cage. Sound Designer Steve Schoenbeck delivers clear dialogue and music.
Noel Anthony, Allison F. Rich, Sam Faustine, Monique Hafen, Reg Huston, Ric Iverson, Jill Miller, Keith Pinto, Branden Noel Thomas, and Christopher Vettel carry their quirky characters just short of going completely over the top which is not easy to do with this combination of melodrama and Broadway Musical. This sharp, talented cast gives the production a touch of believability.
Authentic costume design by Abra Berman and an excellent instrumental ensemble give strong support.
“Sweeney Todd” might not be everybody’s cup of tea, and it surely isn’t everybody’s meat pie, but it does entertain at The Stage.
SWEENEY TODD DETAILS
Where: The Stage, 490 S. 1st St. San Jose
Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.
Through: March 18
Reservations and Information: call 408/283-7142 or visit www.the stage.org
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