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SWEENEY TODD | The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

SWEENEY TODD | The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler

Grand Prairie Arts Council

Director: Dr. Denise Rodrigue
Music Director/Accompanist: Taiko Pelick
Choral Director/Conductor: Patricia Bedford
Stage Manager: Taylor Hampton
Set Design/Build: Matt Betz
Choreographer: Maegan Stewart
Costumer: Eric Criner, Costumes by Dusty
Lighting & Sound: Studio 147

Cast
Sweeney Todd: David Curry
Mrs. Lovett: Emma Bruce
Anthony Hope: Austin Jon Hines
Johanna: Brigitte Reinke
Tobias Ragg: Dakota James
Judge Turpin: Nathan Erwin
The Beadle: Joshua Sherman
Beggar Woman: Allison Barr
Adolfo Pirelli: Zachary Caldera
Jonas Fogg: Jonathan Oefelein
Bird Seller: Jeny Siddall
Young Lucy: Felicia Stalzer
Ensemble: Joshua Gonzalez, Dani Haines, Christina Miralla, Kayden Moore, Ashton Morales, Alexandra K. Neary, Sharon Prek, Jeny Siddall, Felicia Stalzer, Christopher Watson, Brandon Williams, Luke Williams


Reviewed Performance: 10/1/2017

Reviewed by Holly Reed, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

The Uptown is Grand Prairie’s fully restored 1950’s theater and performing arts center, nestled in the middle of Main Street. Complete with art deco exterior signage and retro marquis boards, walking up to the theater is a pleasant back step into the glitz and glam of the 1950s. Assuredly one of the nicest community theater spaces I’ve attended, I was impressed by the professional lighting, seating, stage proscenium, and overall decor which raised my expectations as I took my seat.

The technical elements of the show did not disappoint. Set designer and builder Matt Betz made excellent and efficient use of space, dividing the stage horizontally. He gave the weightier stage left to the story’s central characters: Mrs. Lovett’s Pie Shop and Sweeney’s Barber Shop. The lesser stage right was assigned to all other characters and subplots. The set itself was modest but sufficient and evoked the dark mood of “evil” London. While there is a dark comic element to the story, I do have to say that the trapdoor by which Sweeney disposed of his victims was a little too humorous…it was a bit loud and jolting and always made me worry for the folks falling down into the hole! As always, Costumes by Dusty (curated by Eric Criner) provided perfect wardrobes for the atmosphere. I always love the look of old London on stage. While makeup was not credited in the program, it should have been, as the macabre, zombie-like makeup on most secondary and ensemble characters was wonderful. From the moment the Greek-like chorus entered and began their prelude, the mood of the theatre turned dark. It was almost as if they knew and perhaps had already embraced their fate….

Ah, Sondheim. A musical challenge of the highest degree. Par for the mood, Sondheim throws down the gauntlet in the lyrics and music of Sweeney Todd, daring the good folk of London to boldly try and conquer the swift verbiage and often atonal chord structures. It often leaves me wondering, “Was that the right note? Who knows?!?” Wrong notes are certainly more easily hidden among what seems to be a crazy train of melodic madness, however, the cohesiveness and consistency of the angst created in that mode actually supports the show thematically. The entire cast did well in their efforts to master Sondheim’s difficult music. Bravo to their preparation. I’m sure it was long and tedious.

The lead role of Sweeney Todd was played by David Curry, whose vocal range and articulation was adequate for the demands of the role musically. His size, although domineering, didn’t convey the creepiness I was expecting. I expect a little crazy to ooze from Sweeney and for him to reek of bizarre. I didn’t quite get that from Curry’s interpretation, who seemed to be a bit two-dimensional. I was never afraid that he might do something unexpected and rash. There was a little too much acting and anticipating, but not enough spontaneity and authenticity in his portrayal.

The spotlight brightly shone on Emma Bruce as Mrs. Lovett, the definitive star of the show. She was crazy, thoughtful, shallow, funny, and in love, and all of this 100% believable. Her words were all fresh, present, organic and responsive. There was no actress on that stage—Mrs. Lovett herself is resurrected every night to tell her story again and again. Ms. Bruce rose to the challenge of the witty, charging lyrics and vocal acrobatics in “The Worst Pies in London,” “A Little Priest,” and my personal favorite, “By The Sea.” Mrs. Lovett is an amazing but formidable role. Emma Bruce proved stellar and adept both in acting and vocal abilities and suited for any role she should choose to pursue. I look forward to seeing her in future endeavors.

The frustrated yet persistent couple of Johanna and Anthony were played beautifully by Brigitte Reinke and Austin Jon Hines. Austin’s voice was full and warm and made me pity his pining for the ever removed love of his life in the multiple reprises of “Johanna.” Brigitte’s soaring soprano voice was captivating in “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” and “Kiss Me.”

Another actor who fully embraced his role and captured the audience’s heart was Dakota James as Tobias Ragg. Perhaps taking notes from Dear Evan Hansen lead Ben Platt’s stellar physical interpretation of insecurity, Dakota manifested Tobia’s anxious existence into a tangible physicality that was authentic, precious and endearing.

The ensemble was solid and supportive and provided a secure foundation to move the story along. There was a wide vocal range which covered the Sondheim music wonderfully and provided more than adequate volume for the room. Their coordination and unity was always in sync with choreography that was intentional but not overdone.

A story that could possibly be weighed too heavy and morbid and borderline inappropriate in theme was saved, in my opinion, by the brilliant comic relief and charm of Mrs. Lovett. I left the theater smiling, reliving her funny moments and her quirky characterization. Don’t be afraid of Sweeney Todd. You can see his evil coming a mile away. Watch out for that Mrs. Lovett. She’s a charmer and the real mastermind inside the Uptown Theater in Grand Prairie.

Sweeney Todd
Grand Prairie Arts Council
Playing September 29, 30, October 6, 7 at 8pm. October 1, 7, 8 at 2 pm.
Uptown Theater
120 East Main Street, Grand Prairie, Texas 75050

Tickets range from $15 to $25.
Tickets may be purchased online at artsgp.org or by calling 972-237-8786.
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