Book by Hugh Wheeler
From an Adaptation by Christopher Bond
Directed by Michael Weber
Music Direction by Doug peck
Dance & musical Staging by Dina DiCostanzo
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
Amazing intimate production of Sondheim’s Grand Guignol opera – Sweeney Todd is a gem
Porchlight Theatre, under the leadership and direction from Michael Weber, have mounted, on a low budget, an intense, well sung and well performed production of Sweeney Todd. It rivals the terrific production recently at Drury Lane Oakbrook in quality not scope. This production is intimate, slick and darkly scarey proving that the source material can work on different scales. This Sweeney plays very much like the 1979 original and the 1982 national tour.
More of an opera than standard Broadway musical, Sweeney Todd seems to get better each time I see it. The dark tale captures your attention immediately with the chilling “Ballad of Sweeney Todd” and does not let you go until the very end. Scenic Designer Jeffrey D. Kmiecs set drapes the theatre’s thrust. Greg Hofmann & Jess Going’s lighting set the mood for Sondheim’s dark opera. The work is tight, scarey and wonderfully sung.
The story of the demon barber of Fleet Street revolves around Sweeney Todd’s (David Girolmo) 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 (fabulous comic timing from Rebecca Finnegan revisiting her Jeff Award performance as Mrs. Lovett), 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.” David Girolmo and Rebecca Finnegan have a special stage chemistry with Girolmo the obsessed one and Finnegan the hilarious practical one. Together they evoke empathy and humor in a provocatively gruesome manner. They anchor the production.
Aside from the obvious mature themes here (e.g., murder and cannibalism), there are some moments of startling realism in this show: one such moment occurs in the scene depicting Judge Turpin’s (Edward J. MacLennan) lust for his ward Johanna (Stephanie Stockstill), Sweeney Todd’s daughter.Sweeney Todd contains clever lyrics and stirring music that are the hallmark of a Sondheim production.
In his darkly comic tale, the patrons get special “treatment” as we hear classical songs like the haunting “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd,” “By The Sea,” “Pretty Women,” and the hilarious “A Little Priest.” The 1979 Broadway production won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book (for Hugh Wheeler) and Best Score.In the Porchlight production, the singing is terrific as is the scary, sweetly lands his song “Not While I’m Around” in a most empathetic turn. The supporting players add depth and nice little twists that enhance the production.
Doug Peck’s orchestra produced the haunting music by Sondheim marvelously without overpowering the singers. The total production accomplished the proper atmosphere to fuel a scary gruesome musical. This production will satisfy lovers of Sweeney Todd as well as introduce newbies to Sondheim’s work. Kudos to Porchlight for bravely mounting a fine Sweeney Todd.
Date Reviewed: October 10, 2014
For more info checkout the Sweeney Todd page at theatreinchicago.com
At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-777-9884,www.porchlightmusictheatre.org, tickets $45, Thurs at 7:30 pm (Thurs. Nov .6 matinee at1pm), Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours 30 minutes with intermission, through November 9, 2014