Two musical lovers give their take on the murder, mayhem, meat pies, and mimosas (we wish!) of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Shane: Okay, give me a one word review.
Greg: Personally …
Shane: That’s one word.
Greg: (Wonders where he put his razor). Fascinating. But you know I’ve seen this show more times than Britney Spears has seen her kids. And I really feel like this was something for the fans.
Shane: If you’ve never been introduced to the show, you’ll be the first casualty of the night. Totally lost. But, if you’re a true theater lover, you’ll love this show, regardless.
Greg: With that out of the way, let’s double back and give the background.
Shane: You go ahead. (Shakes mixer)
Greg: Sweeney Todd is a barber.
Shane: On Fleet Street.
Greg: Who is sent to jail unjustly …
Shane: Not on Fleet Street.
Greg: So the local judge can get after his wife. When he escapes years later, he’s told that his wife killed herself. So he spends the rest of the musical seeking his revenge.
Shane: On Fleet Street
Greg: What’s interesting about this revival is that the action doesn’t take place on Fleet Street. Instead, we seem to watch of a troupe of 10 actors/musicians in a psych ward doing a production of Sweeney Todd. We’re never told that’s the case …
Shane: But, like Clay Aiken, there are some things you just know.
Greg: So you essentially have actors playing characters playing characters.
Shane: I was as lost as Sarah Palin during those poor Katie Couric interviews. Bless her heart.
Greg: The “golden-haired” Johanna is brunette and Pirelli is played by a woman.
Shane: And usually we have to pay extra for drag shows.
Greg: So, what you get is improvised props — there’s no barber chair and no bakehouse oven — and some awkward staging as characters often play toward the fourth wall.
Shane: Using the actors for the orchestra was interesting, but I found it extremely distracting. I really couldn’t get lost in the show.
Greg: It really complicates an already complicated first act.
Shane: My favorite song is “Johanna,” but I didn’t get anything from it this time. Anthony (actor Duke Anderson) was singing it with the kind of blank expression I used to have when I would date women. Nothing. Nada.
Greg: My favorite song is “God, That’s Good.” It’s typically a rousing opening for the second act, but it was so muddled and rushed through, you couldn’t enjoy it. It was also the only point where I missed the larger chorus.
Shane: But the fast pace of the second act really got the show back on track. I had goosebumps for the last half-hour. The best part was Carrie Cimma as Mrs. Lovett. “The Worst Pies in London” and “A Little Priest” were terrific. She had so much attitude.
Greg: And the production really makes you start thinking. She wasn’t playing Mrs. Lovett; she was playing a character playing Mrs. Lovett. Deep.
Shane: It definitely is the most unique presentation of Sweeney Todd I’ve ever seen.
Greg: And it shows how creators can fall in love with different aspects of this show. Tim Burton’s movie used the oven as a focal point, but you don’t even see it in this production. But Burton got rid of “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd,” which I find essential to the show. That was definitely my favorite part of this production, because I thought it was sorely missed in the movie.
Shane: Okay, final verdict?
Greg: Thumbs up.
Shane: Thumbs sideways.
Greg: Groan. (Sure he can find that razor).
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City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.