note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
Grand Grand Guignol at Metro Stage By Beverly Creasey If you’ve never seen SWEENEY TODD, now is the time. Metro Stage Company’s magnificently grizzly production of Stephen Sondheim’s sardonic musical only runs through October 24th. If you’re a SWEENEY diehard like me, you’ll delight in Paul Farwell’s cheeky, maniacal production which embraces the macabre with a bear hug. See it for Farwell’s inventive directorial touches…and see it for the two impressive leads. Ben DiScipio plays the bloodthirsty Todd to the hilt but his broken heart shows through in passing flashes, giving his character a chilling humanity. Shana Dirik is a Mrs. Lovett to die for. She makes every rhyme pop and every intention read across her wonderfully expressive face. They’re yin and yang, she and Sweeney, with his “odd” eye and cold gaze. Their duet, “Little Priest” is a thing of beauty. I’d go back in a trice to see it again.
For that matter, I’d love to hear the organ prelude again, performed (by Maria Duaime) while the audience is finding their seats. Duaime and Kendra Alati’s musical direction is another reason this SWEENEY soars. Robert Case lends a gorgeous, ominous baritone to the opening number and Phil Thompson adds the horror as the evil judge who steals away Sweeney’s wife and child.
Farwell gets fine performances from all the secondary characters: From Nathan Fogg as the nasty Beadle with the sweet voice, From Johnny Newcomb as the sensitive hero, From Victoria Thornsbury as the hysterical Johanna, And from Paul Kmiec as the dimwitted orphan boy. Kudos for transforming the charlatan into a trousers role. Abigail Cordell is a treat. Even an errant follow spot could not dim this brilliant SWEENEY.