A Musical Thriller.
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Book by Hugh Wheeler.
From an Adaptation by Christopher Bond.
Directed& Choreographed by Jim Corti.
Music Direction& Conducted by Tom Vendafreddo.
At Paramount Theatre, Aurora.
Speaking of mankind, Todd declares:
They all deserve to die.
Tell you why, Mrs. Lovett, tell you why.
Because in all of the whole human race
Mrs. Lovett, there are two kinds of men and only two
There’s the one staying put in his proper place
And the one with his foot in the other one’s face
Look at me, Mrs. Lovett, look at you.
And here is what he thinks of London:
There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit
And the vermin of the world inhabit it
And its morals aren’t worth what a pig can spit
And it goes by the name of London
Stunning set and magnificent voices fuel eerie Grand Guignol opera!
After hearing the haunting overture, the eye-popping set properly sets the dark tone for Sondheim’s opus – Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. From the haunting “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd’ we are in the dark world of mid 19th Century London were strange things happen. The multi-set design (by Jeffery D. Kmiec) and the red-infused lighting (by Nick Belley & Jesse Klug) with the haunting Sondheim score gets the dark mood established.
The story of the demon barber of Fleet Street revolves around Sweeney Todd’s (the baritone Paul-Jordan Jansen) obsessive desire to seek revenge on the man responsible for exiling him, destroying his wife, and stealing his child. While awaiting his opportunity for retribution, he and the entrepreneurial Mrs. Lovett (Bri Sudia), become partners in a horrific venture in which Sweeney Todd provides Mrs. Lovett with the pivotal ingredient for her meat pies after giving his customers the “closest shave they will ever get.” Jansen and Sudia have a weird stage chemistry withJansen the obsessed one and Sudia the hilarious practical one. Together they evoke empathy and humor in a provocatively gruesome manner. They anchor the production. Their duets were amazing, Especially the clever “A Little Priest.”
In his darkly comic tale, the patrons get special “treatment” as we hear classical songs like the “By The Sea,” “Pretty Women,” and the hilarious “The Worst Pies in London.” And the wonderful melodic ballad “Johanna” sung beautifully by Patrick Ronney, The 1979 Broadway production won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book (for Hugh Wheeler) and Best Score. The supporting players add depth and nice little twists that enhance the production such as the terrific turn by Anthony Norman as the dense Tobias Ragg. His rousing rendering of the operatic tune “Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir” and the tender duet “Not While I’m Around” (with Bri Sudia) showcased Norman’s talent. Larry Adams, as judge Turpin and Craig W. Underwood, as The Beatle were effective villeins. Emily Rohn in the thankless role as the Beggar Woman underscored the opera’s action.
But what makes Jim Corti’s magnificent production work so well is his smart casting of the practical humorous Bri Sudia as Mrs. Lovett in stark contrast to the brooding, revenge-filled turn by the power-voiced Paul-Jordan Jansen as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
The total production accomplished the proper atmosphere to fuel a scary gruesome musical. The eerie score from Tom Vendafreddo’s 19 piece orchestra sounded scarcely powerful. This production will satisfy lovers of Sweeney Todd as well as introduce newbies to Sondheim’s work, This Paramount Theatre production is a first-class one equal to the finest touring productions I’ve seen dating back from the early 1982 national tours. Once more Jim Corti proves that he sure has a handle on how to mount terrific productions of major hits musicals that both have elements of the originals and a fresh take on the subject. That is difficult to accomplish but Corti delivers. His Sweeney Todd is fabulous!
Date reviewed: February 11, 2017.
For more info checkout the Sweeney Todd page at theatreinchicago.com.
At Paramount Theare, 23 E Galena Blvd, Aurora, IL, call 630) 896-6666, https://paramountaurora.com, tickets $44 – $59, Wednesdays at 1:30 & 7 pm, Thursdays at 7 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 1 & 5;30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes with intermission, through March 19, 2017.