Sweeney Todd – Play Review


“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” opened at Theatreworks, Saturday night, and received a standing ovation from the full house.  The story, based on the book by Hugh Wheeler, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is about the power of evil to infect everything and everyone, in its wake.  And in the words of Theatreworks’ Artistic Director, Robert Kelley, Sweeney Todd is “about our ways of dealing with evil: countering it with virtue, disarming it with humor, crushing it with force, or transforming it into art”.  And what a fine work of art it is in this theatreworks production.

The story of Sweeney Todd is set in London in 1940s, during the time when London was blasted by German bombs. Fifteen years prior, a barber was unjustly convicted and sent to Australian prison and has now returned to extract his revenge from the system.  Specifically, he wants to extract revenge from the evil Judge Turpin (Lee Strawn), and his lackey, a portly, greasy, evil man, Beadle Bamford (Martin Rojas Dietrich).


Kevin Berne/TheatreWorks David Studwell stars as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd.David Studwell, in the role of Sweeney Todd, is devilishly magnificent and the first person he charms and snares into his evil scheme, is Mrs. Lovett (Tory Ross, who is equally magnificent).  While Sweeney Todd has been deeply wronged by the system, is motivated by vengeance, and does the disturbingly gory work with his bare hands, Mrs. Lovett, a pie seller, trying to run a challenging business at a difficult time, is entrepreneurial, charming, and is purely driven by profit motive.  She works with her hands, tenderizing the meat (if we forget for a minute the source of that meat) and baking it into artful, tasty pies.  The force of evil is so powerful, it sucks you right in.  When Mrs. Lovett declares, “we got a nice respectable business now”, it almost makes you want to root for her to rescue Sweeney from his obsession with vengeance and escape with her to a cottage by the ocean.  When smug judge Turpin comes for a shave, to get ready to seduce his ward, Joanna (gorgeous Mindy Lym), who is Sweeney’s daughter, whom he has kidnapped and raised, you almost root again for Sweeney to complete his task and give the judge his due.

When the judge escapes, instead of heaving a sigh of relief, you almost want to tell Sweeney, “what made you wait, you had him”!!  This timeless tale is as much about the demon barber, as it is about the evil lurking in all of us.  If it is not consciously checked, the evil will suck you right in, if not by doing, than by thinking.  Special kudos to fantastic musical direction by William Liberatore and superb staging by Marcy Victoria Reed and Emily Anderson Wolf.  Don’t miss this incredible production by theatreworks.  For tickets, go to www.theatreworks.org .

I had him!
His throat was there beneath my hand.
I had him!

His throat was there beneath my hand.
No, I had him!
His throat was there and now he’ll never come again.
Mrs. Lovett: Easy now, hush love hush
I keep telling you, Whats your rush?
Todd: When? Why did I wait?
You told me to wait –
Now he’ll never come again.
There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit
And it’s filled with people who are filled with sh*t
And the vermin of the world inhabit it.

But not for long…
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.

Don’t we all deserve to die?
Even you, Mrs. Lovett, even I.
Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief
For the rest of us death will be a relief
We all deserve to die.

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