The Actor's Express (404.607.7469) production of "Sweeny Todd "is a classic tale of madness and loss, despair and betrayal, the exploration of that shadowy vortex the human psyche encounters when something inside has been so badly damaged that it reaches the point of no return. Such is the journey of Sweeny Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street. "Sweeny Todd, The Musical", based on the book by Hugh Wheeler and directed by Freddie Asheley, has won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical. The Music and Lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim.
The plot revolves around a wronged barber who escapes from prison, returning to his native London under the alias of Sweeny Todd (played by Kevin Harry) to exact revenge on the corrupt Judge Turpin (played by Michael Strauss) who imprisons him and steals his daughter, Johanna for whom, now as an adult, he professes a seedy psycho-sexual obsession. Todd joins forces with the lonely, manipulative, piemaker Mrs. Lovett (played by Deborah Bowman) who longs for Todd's affections. Mrs. Todd's son, Anthony(played by Benjamin Davis) loves Johanna (Kelly Chapin Martin)but as she rejects Judge Turpin's advances, she is sent away to a mental asylum(under the care of Fogg, played by Daniel Burns) by Judge Turpin's right hand, Beadle Banford (played by Glenn Rainey) who also threatens Mrs. Lovett and Todd with an investigation. Pirelli, a con artist(played by Stuart Schleuse) with his assitant Tobias (played by Joseph Masson) has recognized Todd and threatens to blackmail him. These threats catapult Todd into a murderous rampage which dispatches his victims by slitting their throats and pulling a lever as they sit bleeding in his barber chair to fall down to the basement as a revolving trapdoor disposes of the bodies who are later burned to a crisp or utilized as meat for Mrs. Lovett's pies.
The show is a memorable collection of stellar performances which promise to be an unforgettable night of poignant musical theater. Kevin Harry's low register and thunderous vocal range can project loss, passion and despair with equal ease carrying the show's lead flawlessly. Deborah Bowman is quite believable and unforgettable as a working class British woman who is ethically challenged yet vulnerable as the victim of unrequited love. Her undoing is withholding truths from Todd. Michael Strauss' performance was nuanced and sophisticated for a role that is not easy to play: a tortured, masochistic, upper class gentleman crippled with incestuous lust towards his stepchild. Benjamin Davis and Kelly Chapin Martin both possess beautiful voices that can project longing and loss very well. Stewart Scheleuse's portrayal of the villanous Pirelli was very skillful and a notable performance that evening was that of the young talented Joseph Masson as Tobias.
Do not miss Actor's Express' production of "Sweeny Todd" for a spectacular dip into the dark side. Anyone cares for a little trim?