Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Sweeney Todd"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2007 by Tony Annicone

"Sweeney Todd"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Little Theatre of Fall River's current show is Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" which opened on Broadway on March 1, 1979 and went on to win 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical. The show is a macabre tragicomedy based on the legend of a half-mad 19th Century English barber who is driven to crime when his wife and child are taken from him by an evil judge. Unjustly imprisoned, Todd eventually escapes and vows to bring justice not only to the judge who destroyed his life, but to all the people of London. He forms a partnership with Mrs. Lovett, an enterprising barmistress whose previously worst pies in London soon become the tastiest with Todd's victims as the secret ingredient in them. This tale of murder and vengeance is given an excellent presentation by a very talented cast with fantastic voices and a score of over 300 pages. The directors Kathy Castro and Robbie as well as musical director Steve Remington bring out the best in there cast, making this a must see show of this season.

The main set piece is a revolving two story barber shop/ pie shop complete with a trap door which gets the dead bodies downstairs to be put in Mrs. Lovett's huge oven. The gorgeous London backdrop is well lit especially in the City on Fire scene with red engulfing the whole stage. This talented cast is lead by two outstanding performers, David Jones and Vanessa Raposa. David plays the mad barber perfectly and possesses a tremendous baritone voice which fills the whole theatre. From his "No Place Like London" to "Pretty Women" to the "Letter", he captivates you with his wonderful stage presence. Todd's counterpart, Mrs. Lovett is excellently played by Vanessa. She uses a Cockney accent and shows off her astounding voice in "Worst Pies in London" which is a hoot as is ''By the Sea", and "Poor Thing". Vanessa who stepped into this role a week or so before opening, brings a lot of humor to the show with her madcap antics. Her duets with David, "Epiphany" and "Little Priest" when they finally realize what they need to do with the dead bodies, are hilarious. Kudos to both of them in these demanding roles.

The magnificent sound of the chorus is one of the highlights of this show. They handle several demanding numbers including the continuous "Ballad of Sweeney Todd" which is based on the "Dies Irae" the Roman Catholic mass for the dead, the splendid and frightening, "City on Fire" and the rollicking, "God, That's Good" which is like Om Pah Pah number from "Oliver". The supporting cast is topnotch in their roles, too. Bobby Sylvia and Abigail Smith play the young lovers, Anthony and Johanna who is Todd's kidnapped daughter. Bobby is fantastic as this young heroic sailor by saving the damsel in distress from the clutches of the evil judge by rescuing her from an insane asylum. He has a fabulous tenor voice which soars off the charts in the soaring ballad "Johanna" and the pretty duet "Kiss Me" with Abigail. She plays the young girl with a high soprano voice in her solo, "Green Finch and Linnet Bird" and the duet, "Kiss Me". The mysterious beggar woman is played by Sue Couitt who displays her comic timing as this insane creature who grabs Anthony's family jewels in one scene and gets to show off her lovely singing voice in "Alms" and "City on Fire". Another comic performer is Alex DeValles as Toby. He first appears as the barber, Pirelli's assistant but soon becomes Mrs. Lovett's employee. Alex shows off his strong voice in "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir", ""God, That's God" and when he wants to protect Mrs. Lovett from the dangers of the shop, in the poignant, "Not While I'm Around" my favorite song in the show.

The evil, horrible judge is well played by Brian Mulvey. The judge lusts after the much younger, Johanna and wants to marry her. Brian gets to sing "Johanna" and "Pretty Women" duet with David. His sidekick in the show is Beadle Bamford, played by Paul Allard who shows his reprehensible side when he crushes a bird to death. He shows off his strong singing voice in "Ladies in their Sensitivities". The third suspicious character is played for laughs with Eric Pereira as the Italian barber, Pirelli, complete with the accent and a handlebar moustache. He uses his high tenor voice in the contest song where he sings operatically as he shaves his customer slower than Sweeney and also when he pulls Toby's tooth out slower than Todd does. Later when he tries to blackmail, Sweeney, he becomes the first murder victim of the night. So for a fabulous rendition of this show, be sure to catch "Sweeney Todd" before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Sweeney Todd!" (17 - 20 May)
BBC, Margaret Jackson Theatre, Elsbree Street, FALL RIVER MA
1 (508)675-1852

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide