Theatre Mirror Reviews -"Sweeney Todd"

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entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"Sweeney Todd"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Triboro Musical Theatre's first show of 2012, done in conjunction with Wheaton College, 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, vowing 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 proprietress whose previously worst meat 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 a topnotch presentation by a talented cast with marvelous voices in a score of over 300 pages. Director Vivian K. Humphrey and music director David Renoni bring out the best in their 30 member cast.

This talented cast is lead by two terrific performers, Devin Romanul and Sarah Mielbye. Devin plays the mad barber perfectly. He possesses a marvelous baritone voice which fills the whole theatre. From his "No Place Like London" to "Pretty Women" to the "Letter", he captivates you with his strong stage presence. Devin captures the mad desperation the role needs, giving a splendid performance. The murders give the audience chills up their spines with his dispatch of his victims. Sarah, a lovely brunette plays Todd's counterpart, Mrs. Lovett and uses a Cockney accent. She has an astounding voice in "Worst Pies in London" which is a hoot as is "By the Sea" and "Poor Thing". Sarah brings a lot of humor to the show with her madcap antics to lighten the mood. Her duets with Devin, "Epiphany" and "Little Priest" when they finally realize what they need to do with the dead bodies, are hilarious. Kudos to both performers in these demanding roles.

The terrific harmony of the chorus is one of the highlights of this show as well as a topnotch orchestra. 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 frightening, "City on Fire" and the rollicking, "God, That's Good" which is like "Om Pah Pah" from "Oliver". The supporting cast is topnotch in their roles, too. Ben Bagley and Lauren Bamford play the young lovers, Anthony Hope and Johanna who is Todd's kidnapped daughter. Ben is marvelous as the young heroic sailor who saves the damsel in distress from the clutches of the evil judge by rescuing her from an insane asylum. He has a fantastic tenor voice which soars off the charts in the soaring ballad, "Johanna" and in the pretty duet "Kiss Me" with Lauren. She possesses an incredible high soprano voice in her solo, "Green Finch and Linnet Bird" and the duet "Kiss Me". Lauren is marvelous in this role.The mysterious Beggar Woman is wonderfully played by Nora Maynard. She displays her comic timing as this insane creature when she tries to steal pies from Mrs. Lovett .Nora also displays her strong singing voice in"Alms" and "City on Fire". Another comic performer is Jake Humphrey as Tobias. He first appears as Pirelli, the barber's assistant but soon becomes Mrs. Lovett's employee. Jake's powerful voice is heard in "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir", "God, That's Good" and "Not While I'm Around". This latter song is when Toby wants to protect Mrs. Lovett from the dangers of the shop. Jake stops the show with the number's poignancy and it also is my favorite song in this show.

Jake Robertson plays the evil, horrible Judge and captures the lasciviousness of the character wonderfully as the judge lusts after the much younger, Johanna and wants to marry her. Jake shows off his powerful voice as he sings "Johanna" and "Pretty Women" duets with Devin. I last reviewed Jake as John the Baptist/Judas in "Godspell" in 2010. Joe Nelson plays Beadle Bamford, the judge's sidekick in the show. He shows the reprehensible side of the Beadle when he crushes a bird to death. Joe displays his strong voice in "Ladies in their Sensitivities" and "Sweet Polly Plunkett". The third suspicious character, the Italian barber Adolfo Pirelli is played for laughs by Nick LaPete. He wears a wig and has a splendid Italian accent. Nick has a high tenor voice, showing it off in the contest song where he sings operatically as he shaves the customer slower than Todd. Later when Pirelli tries to blackmail, Sweeney Todd, he becomes the first murder victim of the night. So for a fabulous rendition of this show, be sure to catch "Sweeney Todd". Tell them Tony sent you.

"Sweeney Todd" (13 & 14 January
@ Wheaton College, 26 East Main Street, NORTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide