Review Roundup: Critics Attend the Tale of SWEENEY TODD at Barrow Street Theatre

By: Mar. 01, 2017
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The Tooting Arts Club production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street welcomes the stars of the original London incarnation of the production, Jeremy Secomb (as Sweeney Todd), Siobhán McCarthy (as Mrs. Lovett), Duncan Smith (as Judge Turpin) and Joseph Taylor (as Tobias), reprising their performances for New York audiences.

They will be joined by American actors Matt Doyle (as Anthony), Alex Finke (as Johanna), Betsy Morgan (as Pirelli & Beggar Woman) and Brad Oscar (as The Beadle).

This production of the classic tale of blood thirsty barber Sweeney Todd and resourceful pie shop proprietress Mrs. Lovett immerses audiences in a completely new theatrical experience. This Sweeney Todd comes to New York City following sold-out runs in London where the show debuted in Harrington's Pie and Mash Shop, the oldest continuously operating pie shop in the city, before transferring (by special arrangement with Cameron Mackintosh) to a West End venue on Shaftesbury Avenue. The working pie-shop environment will be re-created at the Barrow Street Theatre.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Spend the night with a world-famous serial killer! That's the promise, proffered with the hopeful luridness of a penny dreadful title, behind the site-specific "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," which opened on Wednesday night at the Barrow Street Theater. It must be said that the Tooting Arts Club's deftly, uh, executed stunt of a show, which originated in London, delivers on its ingenious, if limited, objective. As directed by Bill Buckhurst, this latest version of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's 1978 musical macabre puts its audience within throat-slashing distance of its sociopathic title character.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: Did you come here for a pie, sir? If so, smart move. The traditional meat or vegetarian pie dished out to audience members before each performance of the Tooting Arts Club's "Sweeney Todd"-alongside a gut-warming mound of mash-is scrumptious. That's to be expected, since the delicacies are the creation of a former White House pastry chef. Equally satisfying is the production itself, an in-your-face take on Stephen Sondheim's dark tale about a bloodthirsty barber, now at the Barrow Street Theatre.

David Cote. Time Out NY: Sweeney Todd set in a (working) replica of a London pie shop, with actors jumping on tables, inches from audience members' faces? Sounds like a terrible idea. Know what else sounded terrible on paper? A Broadway musical about a vengeful barber who slits customers' throats and whose accomplice bakes the corpses into meat pies. But Sweeney Todd (1979) is Stephen Sondheim's grisly masterpiece (with book writer Hugh Wheeler), the most melodically complex and theatrically boldest of his works. Just as Sweeney defied expectations, this high-concept staging is-to borrow Sweeney's encomium of Mrs. Lovett-a bloody wonder, eminently practical yet appropriate.

Matt Windman, amNY: Tooting Arts Club's new production, which originated in London and is now playing off-Broadway in the West Village, is built around a working pie shop, not unlike the one operated by Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney's money-hungry partner in crime. Audience members can dine on meat pies (prepared by a former White House pastry chef) before the show. The eight-member cast combines holdovers from the London production (who are staying with the show only through April 9) and Broadway veterans. They are joined by just three musicians. The pie shop concept is cute at first, but "Sweeney" is a heavily-plotted drama that involves many different locations. This production is awkwardly staged around just a service counter and communal tables, and few seats are not obstructed in some way. At its best, "Sweeney" can be terrifying, mesmerizing and sweeping, but this production sacrifices the storytelling and score for the sake of a gimmick.

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: How do you feel about a certain demon barber looking deep and menacingly into your eyes as he sings about slitting throats? Jeremy Secomb as Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, in the marvelous, nerve-shredding London transfer of Stephen Sondheim's 1979 musical (with book by Hugh Wheeler), fizzes with as much terror as Barrow Street Theatre's impressively designed mock-up of a traditional South London pie-and-mash shop (by Simon Kenny) can contain.

Breanne L. Heldman, Entertainment Weekly: There's a new barber on Barrow Street and, while he may blink and rats may scuttle, he's a welcome new off-Broadway addition. The Tooting Arts Club's production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has transformed the Barrow Street Theatre in the West Village of NYC into a London pie shop and infused the murder-filled Stephen Sondheim show with even more infectious and thrilling energy than typical.

Linda Winer, Newsday: In fact, this "Sweeney," directed by Bill Buckhurst, plays to only 130 people at a time. It may come closest to Sondheim's desire to have it be intimate and scary, with minimal props and, as he has put it, "so close up that the razor could have gotten you." Designed by Simon Kenny, the tables and counter are used as stages and the slaughters - which make stuffing for Mrs. Lovett's pies - chill with merely blood red lights and the shattering blast of a mouth whistle. Depending on where you are seated (for safe distance, I recommend the seats facing the action), you may find the revenge-mad barber popping up with diabolical unpredictability.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: In the atmospheric new revival of Sweeney Todd, the Grand Guignol musical masterwork by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler that never gets old, you might find your scalp being massaged with Pirelli's Miracle Elixir to promote hair regrowth. Or maybe you'll have the wits scared out of you when "The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" pounces on your seat, waving one of his trusty silver razors just inches from your face. All while you're still digesting your pie and mash. That was this reviewer's experience, and though I'm not surprised that four days later, I'm still as bald as I was before, the chilling intimacy of this ingenious site-specific production has stayed with me.

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