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Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
From an adaptation by Christopher Bond

L.I.P. Service

Directed by Shawn Gann
Music Director – Bryce Biffle
Music Advisor – Benjamin Brown
Rehearsal Music Director – Kelly Moore Pfaffenberger
Choreographer – Amy Cave
Stage Manager – Makinzy Springer
Costumers – Autumn Hyun, Alex Colig, Kennedy Brooke Styron, & Nathan Scott
Assistant Costumer – Alex Colig
Hair/Makeup/SFX – Bear Campbell
Lighting Design – Dawn M. Wittke
Set Design – Jason Leyva
Master Carpenter – Dennis Williams
Poster Artwork – Jeremiah Teutsch
Associate Producers – Shawn Gann & Danny Macchietto

Sweeney Todd – Jason Leyva
Mrs. Lovett – Jenny Tucker
Judge Turpin – Greg Dulcie
Johanna Rachel Marie Starkey
Anthony Hope – Caleb J. Pieterse
Adolfo Pirelli – Kevin Solis
Beadle Bamford – Mikey Abrams
Tobias Ragg – Joshua Hahlen
The Beggar Woman – Elisa Danielle James
Bird Seller/Ensemble – Jād Saxton
Jonas Fogg/Ensemble – Jack Bristol
Ensemble – Sakyiwaa Baah, Allen Dean, Corrie Donavan, Edna Gill, Trace Hughes, Ethan Mullins, Araceli Radillo, Christa Schmidt, Michael Stimac, & Kristen Sutton

Conductor/Musician Contractor – Bryce Biffle
Keyboard – Jesse Fry
Violin – Lukas Bartke
Cello – Matthew Allan Holmes
Clarinet – Catherine Conlin
Bassoon, Matthew Banks
Horn – Benito Medrano
Trumpet – Bob Luther
Tuba – Luis Moreno
Percussion – Gareth Mason & Kevin Solis
Flute – Christa Schmidt

Reviewed Performance: 11/15/2018

Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

The cast and crew of Levya Independent Productions (L.I.P. Service) have taken on Stephen Sondheim’s epic potboiler of a musical and have given us a breath-taking, intelligent and memorable show. Within the confines of the Firehouse Theatre, they have brought 19th Century London to life in all its gritty glory and have given this tale of madness and murder and a bloody beauty all its own.

“Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is one of Stephen Sondheim’s most well-known musicals. The mind behind “Gypsy”, “Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, “Company” turned in 1979 to darker material. The villainous character of Sweeney Todd was born in a Victorian ‘Penny Dreadful’ serial in London in the late 1840’s (Thank you, Wikipedia). The murderous barber became so popular with the public that plays on his exploits were being produced before the final installments of the serial were published. So here we have an insane barber gleefully slicing the throats of his victims and giving the bodies to his partner in crime, Mrs. Lovett, who turns them into meat pies.

It was a 1973 adaptation of this melodrama by Christopher Bond which inspired Sondheim. Bond provided the main character with a back story (a naïve barber who is exiled to Australia by a judge who desires and rapes his wife and raises the barber’s infant daughter as his own) and a greater psychological depth. Sondheim felt that music would enhance the drama. And Sondheim’s score accomplishes that with power and brutal beauty.

This is not a musical that treats the audience gently. From the very start the music is ominous and forceful and the orchestra under the direction of Bryce Biffle does justice to it. Though there are moments of beauty and humor in the music and the lyrics, for the most part we are pounded with the weight of the material. Skirting on being atonal at times, the score takes us through this world of revenge, obsession and bloody murder and leaves nothing out. It is not always a pleasant experience. Sondheim pulls no punches. He takes salacious material and turns it into art and in the process gives the audience the ride of a lifetime, one they won’t forget.

Director Shawn Gann handles this sprawling giant with great skill. Coming in at three hours Mr. Gann keeps the pace brisk and uses the stage of the Firehouse Theatre with skill. The set designed by Jason Leyva gives the director so many places to play with. We have the streets of London drenched in perpetual fog and with small set pieces we are moved from place to place with ease, with the barbershop of Sweeney at the top of the set, dominating everything that goes on. Director Gann populates this world with a wonderful cast. Returning to London in the company of a sailor who saved his life, Anthony Hope (Caleb J. Pieterse), Sweeney Todd (Jason Leyva) parts company with Anthony and goes to the room where he and his wife once lived. The room is above the pie shop of Mrs. Lovett (Jenny Tucker), purveyor of the worst meat pies in London. She tells Sweeney of the fate of his wife and infant daughter, Johanna (Rachel Marie Starkey) and returns to him the tool of his trade as a barber, his razor. With his razor in hand, Sweeney vows to avenge the wrong done to him by Judge Turpin (Greg Dulcie) and his assistant Beadle Bamford (Mikey Abrams).

On the path to revenge Sweeney commits murder to protect himself from blackmail and Mrs. Lovett, loath to let a luscious piece of meat go to waste, helps him dispose of the body by putting it into pies. The pies become a hit and so Sweeney must keep slicing the throats of unsuspecting strangers to keep up with demand. Along the way, Anthony falls in love with Johanna and Judge Turpin decides to marry Johanna, and Mrs. Lovett takes on an unsuspecting assistant in the bake house, Tobias Ragg (Joshua Hahlen) and all hell breaks loose.

Jason Leyva is an electrifying Sweeney Todd. Going from brooding obsession to full-tilt, wide-eyed, raving insanity, Mr. Leyva is amazing to watch. This part is monumental, and Sondheim’s score is complicated, yet Mr. Leyva’s strong voice navigates it with apparent ease. I especially enjoyed the moments where Sweeney quietly plots his scheme, such as a time when he writes a letter to lure Judge Turpin to his barbershop. Jason Leyva is wonderful.

As his partner in crime, Jenny Tucker brings Mrs. Lovett to glorious life. There were microphone problems for Ms. Tucker the night I saw the show, but she sailed on through the part like a pro. Her Mrs. Lovett is the ultimate pragmatist. You have a body, make it into a pie. You assure someone that nothing is going to harm them and then say the same words while you are searching for the same person to kill them. Ms. Tucker digs into the role and has loads of fun with it. Her singing brings out the humor and horror that is in the part. Jenny Tucker is so much fun to watch even when she is at her most ruthless.

Rachel Marie Starkey’s gorgeous voice brings the delicate Johanna to glorious life. Sometimes the ingenue parts fall into the background but this does not happen with Ms. Starkey. Her character has the courage to follow her heart and grasp love. As her hope of salvation from a marriage to the man she calls father, Caleb J. Pieterse gives us Anthony Hope. Mr. Pieterse exudes innocence (odd thing for a sailor) and shows his love for Johanna on his sleeve and in his lovely voice. Anthony is lost in love and Mr. Pieterse is not afraid to show us the confusion this can cause.

Judge Turpin, the target of Sweeney Todd’s anger, is played with restraint by Greg Dulcie. He wrestles with the passion he feels toward his ward who is now a young woman and, as most of the characters in this play, is willing to rationalize wrong decisions. Mr. Dulcie’s voice shows us the anguish the judge feels. Mikey Abrams is the right amount of weird as Beadle Bamford. Played with a foppish joy, Mr. Abrams gives us a man obsessed with his own self importance and not afraid to use his power for his advantage. And he sings very well. And he is one of the few lights of comedy in the script. Thank you, Mr. Abrams. Joshua Hahlen is heart-breaking as the earnest Tobias Ragg. Caught in Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett’s web of murder, Mr. Hahlen show us Tobias’ journey into darkness. His singing in the song “Not While I’m Around” touched me deeply.

And my hat is off to the Ensemble and to choreographer Amy Cave. The singing and movement of this talented group kept the night moving with force. From the opening moments of this huge work to the final chorus, the ensemble embodied the energy and drama of the score. Thank you, everyone for your impassioned work.

This show is only running this weekend. I hope you can make time for it in your schedule. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a great production of a monumental work. I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it.

Presented by L.I.P. Service
November 15 – 18, 2018
Thursday – Sunday – 8:00PM
Saturday – Sunday – 2:30PM
Ticket options include food & beverage ($30) or show only ($20)
Firehouse Theatre
2535 Valley View Ln, Dallas, TX 75234
For tickets and information call 817 689 6461
or visit