Review: SWEENEY TODD at Open Stage

A skillful and emotional performance of a chilling tale

By: Feb. 25, 2024
Review: SWEENEY TODD at Open Stage
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The award winning 1979 musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, by Sondheim and Wheeler, combines dark comedy with moments of intense horror. Based on a character from a Penny Dreadful, Sweeney Todd takes the audience on a journey into Victorian England, providing commentary on themes of classism, justice, corruption of the power, and revenge. With an incredibly challenging score and an emotionally demanding storyline, this musical comes to life at Open Stage under the direction of Stuart Landon and music director Nicholas Werner.

The set is reminiscent of a slaughterhouse, complete with industrial grey floors and walls and plastic curtains. The set, lighting, and sound effects work together seamlessly to enhance the intensity and emotions of the scenes. As the show begins, before and after the pre-show speech, the audience sees actor Chris Ondeck mopping, and mopping, and mopping. Just as the audience begins to think, as Stuart Landon quips, “maybe it’s just three hours of mopping”, Ondeck sings “Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd” and his full, powerful voice fills the theatre and makes the audience sit up and pay attention. The ensemble, which features Patty Cole, TJ Creedon, Sarah Anne Hughes, Em Kase, Chris Krahulec, Chris Ondeck, Joellen Terranova, and Keel Warner, with musicians Nicholas Werner (conductor/keyboard) and Morgan Hackett (violin), never miss a step or a note as they tell the tale of Sweeney Todd.

Judge Turpin, Beadle Bamford, and Fogg are the characters the audience loves to hate as they use their positions of power to manipulate, to coerce, and to take what they want. Brian Schreffler and Josh Dorsheimer have a wonderful rapport on stage. Schreffler’s Judge Turpin is aloof, smooth, and accustomed to getting his own way. Dorsheimer’s Beadle Bamford is the perfect yes-man, bowing to the Judge’s whims and wishes, and using his station in life to force others to submit. Schreffler’s lovely baritone is highlighted in “Pretty Women”, and Dorsheimer’s astonishing tenor is on display in “Ladies in their Sensitivities” and “Parlour Songs”. Chris Krahulec takes on the role of Fogg, who runs Fogg’s Asylum. Krahulec’s demeanor and posture in this role make Fogg an absolutely terrifying character.

TJ Creedon is delightful as Pirelli, former employee of Benjamin Barker who has refashioned himself as the preeminent barber and inventor of Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir. Creedon’s Pirelli is a showman, confident, over-the-top, ambitious, and self-centered. His vocal performance, not only as part of the ensemble, but also as Pirelli in “The Contest”, spotlights his vocal agility, precision, and lovely falsetto. Gabrielle Dina takes the stage as Pirelli’s assistant Tobias Ragg. Dina’s facial expressions and energy capture the audience’s attention in “Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir” and “God, That’s Good!”, while her interactions with Rachel Landon’s Mrs. Lovett in Act II are sweet and tender.

Jasmine Graham and Tyler Shadle are adorable as Johanna and Anthony. The audience can feel Johanna’s desperation, fear, and hope as she is rescued from the clutches of Judge Turpin. Shadle’s vocal performance as Anthony is one of the best of the night, and this reviewer will never be able to hear “Johanna” without hearing Shadle’s voice in her head. His pure, clear tone combined with his heartfelt emotion makes “Johanna” everything it should be.

The Beggar Woman, Mrs. Lovett, and Sweeney Todd are portrayed by Stacey Werner, Rachel Landon, and Brad Barkdoll, respectively. Werner gives a great performance as the Beggar Woman, breaking into the scene with wonderful stage presence. It is unfortunate that her microphone was set too loud for her powerful voice on opening night, distorting the vocals and making it difficult to understand the lyrics. However, the passion she puts into her performance makes up for this technical difficulty, and her interactions with Landon’s Mrs. Lovett and Barkdoll’s Sweeney Todd are complex and well-acted. Landon is the perfect Mrs. Lovett. Her comedic timing and facial expressions bring the role to life. Her versatility as an actor is on display as she leans into not only the comedy of the role but also the heart of the role as she portrays the love Mrs. Lovett has for Sweeney Todd and for Tobias. Barkdoll’s performance in the title role is wonderfully multifaceted and expressive. He brings Sweeney Todd’s dedication to and love for his family to the fore and allows the audience to see how his fervor for revenge takes over his mind, emotions, and relationships. Landon and Barkdoll’s powerful performances drive the action forward and catch the audience up in the action and emotion of the story.

The skillful vocals and heartfelt performances of the cast at Open Stage make this production of Sweeney Todd one you won’t want to miss. Visit openstagehbg.com for more information and to get your tickets before it’s too late!


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