Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sweeney Todd: A Bloody Good Time

City Theater Company opens its 16th season with a riveting production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. This punk-inspired version, directed Michael Gray, does justice to the show’s dark drama and masterful score. The orchestra, conducted by musical director JA Kawarsky, handles Sondheim’s contrapuntal and rhythmically challenging music with panache. Dawn Morningstar choreographs the show, getting actors up-close and personal and using every nook and cranny of OperaDelaware’s black box space. Costumes by Kerry Khristine McElrone are bold and fun.

Well cast is the show, with the actors revealing their raw, often lustful motivations. Dale Martin, Jr. sings Todd with warmth and power. Todd’s obsession with his barber’s blade, and its potential for retribution is the artery connecting each player and vignette in the tale. TS Baynes is a vocal powerhouse in her wickedly playful Mrs. Lovett. Tyler Hoffman (Pirelli) is riotously funny in the shaving competition scene, singing “You clip-a da chin. You rip-a da lip a bit.”

Aileen Goldberg is heart wrenching as the Beggar Woman, who has been reduced to insanity by life’s cruelties. Only she, Anthony and Johanna (both sung well by Brendan Sheehan and Lauren Cupples, respectively) do not succumb to the greed and bloodlust that envelops the others. Steven Weatherman plays a sorrowful Judge Turpin, who is unable to see wrong in his pedophilia. Tobias, played by Michael Jahil, is touching as he sings his song of blind devotion to Mrs. Lovett, “Not While I’m Around.” Brian Couch provides comic relief as Beadle, when he tests out Mrs. Lovett’s invisible harmonium, singing ridiculous snippets of songs. Maggie Coswell’s strong voice is excellent in the ensemble. The show runs through December 19, 2009.

See http://www.city-theater.org/.

Jessica Graae

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