The Demon Barber of Fleet Street!

Tutu and I got season tickets to ACT, and we attended our first play this Saturday, Sweeney Todd. I'm not a huge fan of musicals, so I was a little uncertain that I'd enjoy it, but it turned out to be so gruesome and dark that I think it was a great introduction to Stephen Sondheim. The lyrics were fantastic. I can't wait to check out his other work.

I really liked the music, all minor keys and discordant. The play's themes were sad and relatable--love, loss, desperation, greed, vengeance. I loved the set, which consisted of a black coffin in the middle that was used alternately as a table, a counter, a coffin, or just a platform on which the actors stood; a bunch of chairs; a row of coat racks, upon which hung several aprons and lab coats; and a large wall of shelves that held a bunch of knick knacks related to the play (the tools that Mrs. Lovett, the piemaker, uses for her nefarious tasks, for example). The entire set and wardrobe used only black, white, red, and the occasional grey or neutral. I really liked the art direction.

I also enjoyed that the entire cast was on stage throughout the whole play. When someone died, they'd put a blood-stained lab coat on that person to signify their demise. The reason they had to have everyone on stage is the other thing I really liked about the production: The actors did double-duty as the orchestra, playing a variety of instruments on stage as they acted out their parts! I was really impressed that they were able to find actors who sang well, acted, and also happened to play tuba or cello. (I kept wondering if maybe some of them had learned the instruments for the production, in which case I was even more impressed.)

I guess my only complaints are that not all the actors enunciated well, so I had some trouble understanding entire characters' purposes (Tobias), and I didn't really know why certain of them were there until it became totally obvious (Beadle). I also found the murder scenes, though done extremely subtly, went on too long. It was like, I get the point already! Also, the play was generally depressing.... For instance, I hated when, at the end, they pointed to random people in the audience, questioning whether the person sitting next to you might be a depraved murderer, driven to it by circumstance.

Tutu and I decided we were going to review all the plays we see this season and assign them review scores based on the EGM scale of 1-10 with .5 increments. My rating for Sweeney Todd: 8.5/10


Unknown said...

Loved your review. Very detailed.

stiill said...

Awesome! I want to see it-- I'm familiar with the show only because my friend's a capella group is named after it.... :)