The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by HughWheeler
Who doesn’t love a dark tale at Halloween? Especially when it’s a musical! This exciting production of Sweeney Todd by Enlightened Theatrics entertains in a wonderfully morbid way —just as any good dark tale should. Daniel Cilli is outstanding as Sweeney Todd bringing an almost ‘scorpionic’ edge to the barber who is unable to let go of the injustice dealt to him by an unscrupulous judge (Thomas Nabhan) and seeks only revenge. His counterpart, Mrs. Lovett is played by Margo Schembre who gives a standout performance, comic, powerful and perfectly nuanced, she balances the bleak darkness of Todd perfectly. Both Cilli and Schembre possess excellent voices and never miss a beat. The supporting cast are also wonderful despite the occasional flat notes by Justin Canfield as the amorous young lover of Johanna (Catherine Vessey), overall this is a quality production. Sondheim’s music and lyrics are powerful, the audience is treated to the best of musical theatre, a fabulous story and wonderful music. Director Vincenzo Meduri, set designer Iain Chester and lighting designer Phil McBeth have created a tangible world of London in the late 1800’s when London was the capital of the largest empire the world had ever known—and it was infamously filthy. It had choking, sooty fogs; the Thames River was thick with human sewage; and the streets were covered with mud. Times were hard and people did what they had to in order to survive. That might be Mrs. Lovett’s story, or that of the beggar woman (superb character work by Tracy Webber) or Tobias Ragg (played by a promising young talent, Phillip Wells), the young orphan who is at the mercy of the world around him, but is it the story of Sweeney Todd?
Perhaps we should consider the words in the opening song: ‘Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd, he served a dark and vengeful god’ in response to this question, as we soon see this is a man unable to forgive or let go, in fact the word ‘revenge’ sits squarely on his chest. As the lyrics tell us: ‘Sweeney wishes the world away, Sweeney’s weeping for yesterday, hugging the blade, waiting the years, hearing the music that nobody hears’. Through the lyrics Sondheim lets us know the driving force behind the demon barber: ‘He never forgets and he never forgives’. The judge’s lust, Sweeney’s revenge and Mrs. Lovett’s desire all drive this dark comedy towards its inevitable end and all innocence and young love seems lost. Are we human beings so bound by these feelings that we are unable to curb our actions?
Sweeney waits in the parlor hall,
Sweeney leans of the offices wall,
No one can help, nothing can hide you–
Isn’t that Sweeney there beside you?
Perhaps today you gave a nod
To Sweeney Todd
The demon barber of Fleet Street.
This is a ‘must see’ production. Please note that a fog machine is used throughout.
Upcoming Plays: A Tuna Christmas, December 12-30.
October 10th -Nov. 4th, 8 p.m.
Matinees at 2 pm, Sept. 29, Oct. 6.
The Grand Theatre, 187 High Street, N.E. Salem.
Box Office: 503.585.3427 x1.