BWW Reviews: Candlelight Scores Big With Traditional Mounting of SWEENEY TODD
Sweeney Todd first bowed on Broadway in late 1979 and I was in New York to witness the brilliant achievement of Sondheim, Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou and the entire creative team. Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre is presenting the masterwork for the first time, hardly a simple task in a dinner theatre environment. Well, let me tell you, they may be exceedingly proud of this production, as it replicates just about everything that the original achieved. Every detail, every move and every musical beat are in line. With a superlative cast and expert direction from Chuck Ketter, this Sweeney Todd is about as good as it gets.
ST is my very favorite musical of all time, and as I sat mesmerized Saturday night at my Candlelight table, I realized that it has comedy, drama, a thrilling musical score - perhaps Sondheim's best, mystery, adventure, several love stories rolled into one, and a real historical background of London in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century; in short, it has everything that anyone could want from a musical play. Of course, those that have issues with cannibalism will object, at least at first, but even they should not argue with its broad sense of imagination and titillating edge.
What a glorious ensemble! John LaLonde makes a dynamically vengeful, intensely fierce and scary Sweeney, with a strong focus and commitment to the role that rank him among the very best. Debbie Prutsman as Mrs. Lovett is pure joy. Like Angela Lansbury she brings not only depth but a big, broad style that includes some beautifully subtle comic turns. Adam Trent is a precious and caring Tobey, and Jenny Moon Shaw as Lucy/Beggar Woman lends emotional intensity. Caleb Shaw as Anthony and Katie Roche as Joanna make terrific eye and ear candy with their fresh good looks and wonderful singing voices.
In the supporting cast Robert Hoyt as Beadle Bamford, Lance Smith as Pirelli, and Sam Nisbett as Judge Turpin are all superb under Ketter's steady direction. The sets and costumes look remarkably like the original (credit John Patrick and Mela Hoyt respectively). Brisk choreography is by Janet Renslow and the 11 member ensemble are just sensational. One nice element in this production is that Ketter has directed many of the actors to move through the audience at various points in the story bringing the tale even more up close and personal.
What a fabulous production of one of the greatest musicals in theatre history! And on the dinner side, the food is delicious and fresh as always... and especially novel on the menu this time are delightful Sweeney Todd additions like Tri-tip "Meat Pie" with sauteed mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes and three cocktails: The Demon Barber, Fogg's Asylum and Fleet Street. Service as always is quick and gracious.
(photo credit: Kirklyn Robinson)