Sweeney Todd: Thought-Provoking and Beautiful

sweeneyOnce upon a time I was a freshman at Scituate Jr. Sr. High School auditioning for the school play. The play was Sweeney Todd, and I have been in love with not only theater, but Stephen Sondheim ever since. With that background, I was more than a little excited about the Contemporary Theatre Company’s production of Sweeney Todd. Besides, it’s always interesting to see how a small space can handle something as epic as Stephen Sondheim.

The set is simplistic, and there was plenty of good reason for that; Simpson’s vision for the show was that of actors telling a story, and really what better place to do that than a black box? Despite the lack of elaborate sets, a box onstage with a handheld meat grinder was more than enough to get the terrifying point across. The costumes were beautifully designed by Marissa Dufault, and the lights were perhaps my favorite part of the technical aspects of the show. They changed not by scene, but by Todd’s moods. A really lovely job by a team of designers spearheaded by Maggie Cady.

I never consider this an ensemble piece, but in some aspects it truly is. The ensemble sings a la Greek chorus to bring the tale t0 fruition. Their voices were brilliant, and in the opening number it felt as if they were shaking the walls.

Sweeney Todd is a complex character. Is he a villain? Or is he merely a product of his environment? Jason Shealy is the perfect match for this role; he makes the role humorous at times, and I don’t even know where to begin with his voice. He is a trained opera singer who has performed many seasons with Opera Providence, and his vocal talents are quite impressive to say the least. It’s impossible to choose the one thing he did above all. Shealy is Sweeney Todd.

Edden Casteel is well known as a vocal instructor so it goes without saying that you expect her Mrs. Lovett to be sung beautifully, and it is. But her portrayal of the role also is something to be admired. She was funny, cunning and everything you want in a Mrs. Lovett. “The Worst Pies in London” was most definitely a crowd favorite, and one of mine as well.

Ari Kassabian plays Toby. What a voice on this kid! I have a feeling that this is just one of many, many performances we will see her in.

Terry Shea was Judge Turpin, and his rendition of “Mea Culpa” delivered more than just the right notes, but the right tone to the character. He was creepy, and his voice was rich.

The beggar woman can be such a throwaway part in the hands of the wrong actress. Luckily that is not the case here. Alison King Anthony forces you to notice the beggar woman with both her beautiful voice and her command of the role.

The ingénues do a fantastic job in this production. I have to admit I am a tad bit biased as “Joanna” is one of my favorite songs from the production; however, on the flip side of that I generally detest “Green Finch and Linnet Bird.” It’s always played so helplessly, but Maggie Papa plays this role with hope above all. And her scenes in ActTwo are particularly poignant. Alex Bermuda plays the young sailor Anthony with just the right touch of puppy love and determination.

The great thing about a Sondheim musical is that it isn’t just pretty. The music is tough, and the topics and themes even tougher. It makes for a great night of thought-provoking theater, and CTC has certainly delivered that.

At the end of the night, the audience was treated with news: Sweeney Todd will run for an additional weekend. Hearing this, the theater erupted in applause. This is a show you don’t want to miss, and one you may even want to see twice!

Sweeney Todd runs November 12 through 14 at 7pm.  The show has been extended to include November 19 and 22 at 7pm, and a 2pm matinee on the 21st.  Tickets can be purchased at contemporarytheatercompany.com.

One response to “Sweeney Todd: Thought-Provoking and Beautiful”

  1. Eden Casteel says:

    Thank you for coming to the show! We are also so proud to have Jean Maxon Carpenter as our music director.

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