Sweeny Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Donald Rupe
Musical Direction Jami Leigh Bartschi
Starring David Lowe and Sara Catherine Brown
In this age of organic, free range and locally sourced victuals it’s easy to forget that that the cast of this massive musical about revenge and cannibalism easily meets all those criteria. Sweeny Todd (Lowe) spent 15 year in Australia as a prisoner and finally escapes. He returns to London, and now seeks vengeance on the brutal Judge Turpin (Anthony Fryman) who nailed him. His old digs are still for rent, and downstairs landlady Mrs. Lovett (Barnes) runs meat pie shop that will give you the runs. She struggles with high prices, low quality product, and bad reviews. But Todd’s return promise to drive traffic when he sets up his old barbering business, complete with a break away chair that send the corpse of his customer straight down to the sausage grinder. Technically a fugitive, Todd is recognized by his old competitor Senior Pirelli (R.J. Silva), and for his efforts at public safety, Pirelli becomes the first of Mrs. Lovett’s all-natural free-range meat pies. Yummy yum yum!
It’s bleak. Its brutal. And it’s funny as all get out when it’s not dead-in-your-eye serious. Ms. Brown’s Lovett was not only lively and vivacious, she was immediately gung-ho on the cannibalism front. When she pulls off an ad lib, it doesn’t exactly stop the show but it made her partner in crime Lowe nearly breaks character. Kyle Moffatt as Anthony Hope kept a straight face though all this as he connives to snatch the innocent Johanna (Siobhan Gale) from the neatly trimmed beard of Judge Turpin. Mr. Hope remained as serious as a funeral thee whole evening, and Kyle Meehan as The Beadle (an assistant to the judge) felt a bit too clean-faced for the nasty lines he delivered. Backing all this up was a cast of choristers, all marching around in the fog, creating crowd scenes, and generally keeping the sound quality high. This is a solid production by our friends at CFCArts, and while it is a bit of a chestnut, it does give the creepy season a good push off the dock and then off the boat. They may be the worst pies in London, but it the best fun you can have with a musical based on cannibalism.