SOB's Best of 2005-06: #10 - Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Eugene O'Neill Theatre, New York, NY)SOB's Best of 2005-06: #10 - Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Eugene O'Neill Theatre, New York, NY)
Although Stephen Sondheim's musicals often get the bad rap that they're inaccessible, this third Broadway mounting of his classicly dark tale of a vengeful barber named Sweeney Todd works extraordinarily well on many counts and is quite tasty, almost in spite of the subject matter.
First, the import helmed by John Doyle strips the show down to its bare essentials and requires each cast member to play a musical instrument. Rather than distract from the performances, the on-stage orchestrations add more depth -- even though the original rationale for this type of staging was to contain production costs.
Second, the cast is sublime. I've long been an ardent admirer of Patti LuPone. While I've seen her in three other productions (including the brilliant Broadway revival of Noises Off in 2002), this marked my first opportunity to see her perform in a Broadway musical. Not only does she provide a delectable, vampy take on the downright demented Mrs. Lovett, but she also adds to the orchestrations by playing percussion and tuba! Michael Cerveris -- who won a Tony for his portrayal of John Wilkes Booth in 2004's remarkable Assassins -- provides a creepily sympathetic take on the demon barber himself. Other cast members, including Manoel Felciano and Lauren Molina simply captivate.
But the best reasons for seeing this show are the score and story themselves. The scandalous twist at the end helps turn this feast for the eyes and ears into a tragedy, yet with Sondheim tunes as merry as "A Little Priest" and "God, That's Good," the audience has a deliciously invigorating means of getting there.
Fortunately, audiences still have an opportunity to take in this already classic retelling of Sweeney Todd. But best get tickets before the crush of demand from its certain Tony Award nominations, including its probable lock on Best Musical Revival. It's tenth on my list of the Best of 2005-06.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
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The Tonys: If I Could Vote....for Best Revival of a Musical (June 4, 2006)
O-Kaye Given to Temporary LuPone Replacement (May 18, 2006)
The SOB Five "Worst" of 2005-06 (May 12, 2006)
SOB's Best and Worst of 2005-06 Theatre Season (May 12, 2006)