Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sondheim Festival V: Sweeney Todd

(I also went to see a concert performance of Follies - that's no. IV - but to my surprise my review of that isn't up yet.)

This is, oh, the third or fourth time I've seen Sweeney Todd staged, and it's by far the biggest. Enormous cavernous old theater in Seattle, large elaborate sets (but not elaborate enough: see below) with what look from a distance like tiny actors moving around on it, and the sine qua non of pretentious musical shows, dim lighting.

Full theater orchestra, actors miked up the wazoo so their voices won't get drowned out, pretty good performances. Yusuf Seevers doesn't seem quite powerful enough to make an ideal Sweeney. On the other hand, Deon'te Goodman as Anthony is enormously powerful. Maybe they should have switched parts. (They're both Black, by the way. So are Leslie Jackson as an effective Johanna and Porscha Shaw as a somewhat less effective Beggar Woman.) Anne Allgood as Mrs. Lovett is at her best being deadpan, even while singing. Sean David Cooper is a sufficiently evil Judge Turpin, which isn't always easy to pull off.

It was hard to avoid the impression they should have sent out for somebody who knew something about staging. Sweeney's victims, after he cuts their throats, each get up out of the barber chair and walk across the room to the trap door so that they can fall into it. WTF? As for the final scene with the baking oven ... yeah, that didn't quite work either.

Still, a good enough show to make you leave the theater humming. The ravenously appreciative audience on a Saturday night was mostly made up of young people, some of them dressed in variations on Victorian demimonde.

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