Anton and Sharon are back after a great two weeks working with the cast and crew at the CFRT. What an awesome experience we had creating the sound for this amazing production of Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Below is part of our first review, following opening night, Saturday the 2nd of November. To see the full review, please go to: http://ncartsreview.com/movie-review/theatre-review-sweeney-todd-the-demon-barber-of-fleet-street.
November 4, 2013
Review by James Johnson
Stephen Sondheim’s musical masterpiece, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, has been a favorite of mine for years, and thus I realized going into this review of the Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s latest production (Oct. 31 – Nov. 17) that I would be doing so with an inherit bias. I however feel that bias cuts both ways, as like any obsessed fan my nerd rage is easily inflamed (don’t get me started on the casting of Johnny Depp, an inexperienced singer, in a role that could best be described as the musical theatre equivalent of Hamlet). Fortunately, the CFRT’s production of the 1979 classic is all but perfect – we’ll get to the “but” part later.
Obviously the most important ingredient in director Tom Quaintance’s cookbook (as far as analogies go, I can see this one falling apart pretty quickly) is who he casts in the role of Sweeney. As stated earlier, this is among musical theatre’s most difficult to cast roles. Todd is both a tragic victim and a savage remorseless killer, who we somehow find ourselves rooting for and that doesn’t even begin to speak to the challenges the actor must face as a vocalist. This is, after all, Stephen Sondheim (Into the Woods, Company, Sunday in the Park with George, Assassins, West Side Story, etc., etc.), a man famous for writing impossibly complex music seemingly without consideration for whether or not there is anyone alive physically capable of performing it.
Minow, for his part, is brilliant. So much so, that I couldn’t help but wonder how he’d never been cast in this role before, as it seems like a role tailor made for him.
Accompanying Todd, is Borghesi’s Mrs. Lovett, .. as Lovett is my favorite role in the show and therefore the one I personally tend to hold the highest standard for. Borghesi however had won me over before the end of the first act, particularly with her ability to add a subtle extra bit of playfulness to each line through just an expression or movement (the performance of “A Little Priest” was made particularly enjoyable by this, with more than a little credit owed to choreographer Aya “Hope” Shabu).
Meanwhile, Anton Hedman and Sharon Boggs’ sound design set the creepy tone for the entire production. Chains dragging, wood bending under foot, random scratching, all worked to effectively leave the audience on edge. This matched with music director Andrew Wheeler’s chilling underscore did so much to instill a sense of dread throughout the entire evening.
The scenic designer Christopher Tulysewski’s set served as a great reminder of what the CFRT is capable of. The huge metal catwalk, and industrial oven, coupled with the wooden storefront of Mrs. Lovett’s Pie Shop all gave off the vibe of dirt and grit, a place you wouldn’t want to be. The lit pastel-colored backdrop however was an unusual contrast, that seemed to be a leftover from Sweeney’s ’80s productions, that I personally would have rather seen left there.
In returning to the earlier failed cooking analogy (a dead horse that I intend on clinging to like Sweeney clings to a grudge), the CFRT’s production of Sweeney Todd is so close to perfect that even if it is lacking in a little salt, it will leave you craving seconds and even thirds. Fortunately, Mrs. Lovett’s Pie Shop is never lacking in fresh ingredients.
For tickets, call 910.323.4233 or order online here.
**** out of 5.