Is your hair getting too long? Are you in need of a close shave? Then you should go and see Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street!
Put on by The Anne Shirley Theatre Company, Sweeney Todd tells the story of a man convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Set in England in the 19th century, Sweeney Todd has returned to London seeking vengeance on the man who sentenced him to fifteen years in prison. While setting up his barbershop above Mrs. Lovett’s bakery, Mrs. Lovett and Mr. Todd become partners in a crime of passion. This musical also tells the story of the pure love between Anthony and Johanna, who will fight for their love until there is no fight left.
Lucas DeLuca, playing the role of Sweeney Todd, filled Market Hall with his booming voice from the moment he walked onto the stage, and remained consistent until the end of the show. DeLuca captures the extreme despair and suffering that Sweeney is forced to live through, making his performance powerful and passionate.
Sweeney Todd’s daughter, played by Sophie Robinson, is forced to live in the grasp of Judge Turpin, played by Karsten Skeries, who takes her into his care after sending her father away. Robinson’s vocals were one of the strongest in the show. The strength behind her voice mirrored the strength in Johanna as a woman fighting to be with the man she loves, Anthony Hope, played by Erik Feldcamp.
For a musical that has such demanding musical numbers, each and every cast member deserves recognition. There was not a weak moment in the entire show and each musical number had me on the edge of my seat. However, there are two characters that stood out among the rest.
Toby Ragg, a simpleton who is taken in by Mrs. Lovett but does not trust Mr. Todd, is played chillingly by Taylor Beatty. Toby is the very first person people see as they are walking into the theatre. Sitting on stage as people get seated, Beatty in his small movements and mannerisms sets the stage for the entire show. Though Toby may be a simpleton, he makes it clear to Mrs. Lovett that he is not stupid, and as the plot unwinds we see how the events drive Toby mad. Beatty’s brilliant performance peaked during his final solos, “Nothing’s Gonna Harm You” and “Patty Cake” which sent chills throughout the theatre and shivers up my spine.
Matching the energy and performance of Toby was Mrs. Lovett who stole the show, and was played radiantly by Katrina Hounam. Hounam owned the stage every time she was on it, having completely become Mrs. Lovett. The extreme amount of character development was obvious as each and every move and gesture was Mrs. Lovett’s. Hounam was able to get the audience to forget that she was an actor playing a role as she distorted the line between actor and character. And while her acting was marvelous, it was even more so strengthened by her incredible vocals. Each time she opened her mouth to sing, passion came out.
Other members of the cast included Kyla Piccin who plays the beggar woman, Beadle Bamford, played by Josh Butcher, and Christina Pidgeon, playing Adolfo Pirelli. Each actor played their roles wonderfully, truly pulling the audience in.
The ensemble also must not go unmentioned. Playing mental hospital ward patients, the ensemble set the mood in every scene. Sweeney Todd is an extraordinary musical that is dark, creepy, and gruesome and the way in which the ensemble carried the cast epitomized these features.
Another aspect of the show that was done brilliantly was the staging and lighting. Directors Dylan Billings and Lauren Bromberg made great use of the Market Hall theatre, breaking the fourth wall and using every inch of space they had. There were moments when music and singing was coming from all around the audience, forcing them to be a part of the show. The directors made very creative and possibly very risky decisions in terms of staging and it could not have worked out better. The perfect compliment to the staging was the lighting, which was done so in a way that made the audience feel that someone was in the shadows. For a show that is as sinister and dark as this, the lighting further created this atmosphere. At moments the eyes of the actors were not visible as shadows were cast over them. It was evident that the directors knew that the lighting could be used to their advantage to further emphasize the utter eeriness of the script, and it did.
Overall the cast and crew of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street put on a strong show. Be sure not to miss the student showing on Saturday March 21 at 9pm. Tickets are only $10. Made up of a wonderfully talented cast and crew I can assure you, you won’t be eating pies any time soon!