Monday Magazine contributor
The Blue Bridge Repertory Company has never been afraid of a challenge, but Sweeney Todd has to be one of the most challenging shows it has tackled.
This is one of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals, also known as a modern American opera, which was first produced in 1979. Sondheim based his musical on a 1973 play by Christopher Bond, which in turn had been derived from a ‘penny dreadful’ serial called The String of Pearls, published weekly during 1846-47.
I think by now everyone knows the story – deranged man seeks revenge for the rape and murder of his wife by targeting men who would not be missed, murdering them with his cut-throat razor in his barber’s chair and sending the bodies down a chute to the restaurant below, where Mrs. Lovett used them in her famous meat pies. Gruesome stuff and a full three hours of it here at the Roxy Theatre.
The Sondheim lyrics are clever, fast and no doubt difficult to sing, but this cast is fully up to the task, which is 80 per cent of the play.
Jacob Richmond, in the title role, Shauna Bird as Mrs. Lovett and Gabriel Macdonald as Anthony Hope move this production along. Excellent support comes from the rest of the cast, including Kieran Foss, who replaced Taylor Fawcett on opening night and who apparently learned the part in three days! In a theatre the size of the Roxy, and with such strong voices, the personal microphones were hardly needed – I should think the sound could be heard in all the surrounding streets.
The musicians deserve ample credit – especially pianist Jeff Poynter, who kept the urgent pace going throughout. The set and lighting by Patrick Du Wors are interesting and effective, especially the silhouette effects achieved by light from behind the backdrop, and the lights which achieve the colour of blood – buckets of it!
Under the direction of Brian Richmond, this presentation makes a wonderful finish to the current season, though patrons should be warned that the subject matter is gory in the extreme and that the production is very long.
Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, runs at the Roxy until Aug. 12. Call 250-382-3370 or visit bluebridgetheatre.ca for tickets. And check out next season’s lineup while you’re there.