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BWW Reviews: Generations, A Theatre Company's SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET is Captivating and Unforgettable

It has been one of the most anticipated productions of the summer, and the demon barber of Fleet Street has finally arrived in Houston. Generations, A Theatre Company is known for its outstanding summer musical productions, and with every production they continue set the bar higher for the year to come. This summer, their production of SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET fully exceeds all expectations and blows us away with dazzling and beautiful performances. From start to finish, audiences are taken on a wild ride of revenge, love, and betrayal.

Stephen Sondheim's enthralling musical, SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET first premiered on Broadway in 1979. It is a dark and haunting tale of the wrongfully imprisoned barber Benjamin Barker's quest for revenge. Upon his arrival in London Barker, who has renounced his name only to go by Sweeney Todd, befriends the owner of a meat pie shop named Mrs. Lovett. Together the two navigate Sweeney Todd's machinations of revenge while finding creative and lucrative ways to make the meat pie shop one of the best in town. Without knowing exactly who to trust, SWEENEY TODD becomes a thrilling tale with several bloody twists and turns. Taking some unique and creative spins on the infamous musical, Generations, A Theatre Company produces a SWEENEY TODD that is captivating and unforgettable, ensuring audiences that there is no viewing experience of SWEENEY TODD that is quite like this.

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET was masterfully directed and adroitly staged by George Brock, Founder of and Artistic Director for Generations, A Theatre Company. The decision to set the play in a 19th century asylum was fitting for such a dark and ominous tale, and it was marvelously executed. In true Brechtian fashion, the entire cast was onstage at all times and remarkably staged. The cast's inability to escape or leave the stage reinforced the authenticity of the asylum and left the audience unsettled, which is a true merit to the directorial decisions of this piece. Likewise, upon immediately walking into the theater, the viewer's senses are bombarded with mental patients eerily moving throughout the stage. This clever visual overload extends throughout the production as there is always something happening even in the darkest corners. George Brock's direction and staging vividly brought to life the cautionary tale of Sweeney Todd, and successfully intertwined elements of macabre and madness to provide audiences with a production that is breathtaking on several levels.

Kregg Dailey's performance as Sweeney Todd is haunting and brilliantly played. He deftly plays the embittered shell of a man who teeters on the line between vengeance and madness. Kregg Dailey's vocals throughout the production are flawless as he dazzles the audience with his perfect baritone and bass notes. It must be said that it is through his excellent vocal performance that the audience begins to empathize with him and root for him. His performance of "The Barber and His Wife" was clean and perfectly narrative. His performance of the infamous number, "Epiphany" was exhilaratingly intense and one of the best that I have ever heard. Throughout the production, Kregg Dailey adroitly provides us a Sweeny Todd who transitions into someone even darker as his need for revenge takes over.

Mrs. Lovett, played by Kristin Warren, was both adorable and sinister. Kristin Warren demonstrated a marvelous range with her portrayal of Mrs. Lovett, allowing the audience to laugh at her sarcastic humor but also keeping us on The Edge of our seats. Her portrayal of Mrs. Lovett was show-stealing at many moments of the production as she performed marvelously from start to finish. Vocally, she was amazing as she moved gracefully from note to note giving us a range of emotions. Her performance of "The Worst Pies in London" immediately hooked the audience, causing them to root for the adorable pie maker. Incidentally, her performance of "Poor Thing" subtly illustrated a different and more devious side of the not-so-innocent Mrs. Lovett. One of her best played numbers was "By the Sea" where audiences get a full range of her emotions. There is a darker side to that song, but altogether you see her as a giddy girl who is very much in love. Kristin Warren's portrayal of Mrs. Lovett is nothing short of brilliant as she creates a remarkable and memorable character.

Stephanie Styles provides a beautiful and unique portrayal of the character Johanna. Her numbers were flawlessly executed with her stunning soprano vocals. Like so many of the characters in this production of SWEENEY TODD, her portrayal of Johanna was exceptional and unforgettable. Her performance of the song "Green Finch and Linnet Bird" was exquisitely sung and magnificently acted as it almost had a manic feel to it, lending to the atmosphere of subtle insanity and madness.

Forrest Surles, as Anthony, is charming and wonderfully played. He deftly produces a character that is passionate and driven to rescue his newly beloved Johanna. His numbers are handsomely executed with his smooth tenor vocals. His performance of "Johanna" was moving and immediately won over the audience, as they continued to champion for him throughout the production.

Michael Tapley's portrayal of Judge Turpin was nothing short of amazing. He performed vocally flawlessly and provided the audience with a sinister character that was deeply unlikable but oddly human. His number "Johanna (Judge's Song): Mea Culpa" was intensely performed and vocally outstanding. That number in juxtaposition with his performance in "Pretty Women (Parts I and II)" provides the audience with a man who ranges from disturbed to insecure and vulnerable and produces a character that is striking and stirring.

Tyce Green's performance as Beadle Bamford was vocally impressive and wonderfully acted. His wonderful voice was refreshing to hear onstage in numbers like "Ladies in Their Sensitivities" and a welcome addition to numbers such as "Kiss Me (Part II/Quartet)." He was appropriately arrogant and supremely devious as he did the judge's bidding.

Ally McGehee's portrayal of the Beggar Woman was visceral and evocative. Even during parts of the production where she was not the central focus, she was fully in character and twitching or moving about in a fashion indicative of her character's madness. Her sparkling and crisp soprano was pristinely utilized in numbers such as "No Place Like London" and "Johanna (Quartet)."

Grant Brown's performance as Pirelli was well acted and vocally exciting. He skillfully portrayed a devious conman. Grant Brown's Pirelli transitioned between accents flawlessly and his vocals in "The Contest" were supremely executed.

Michael Bevan as Tobias is endearing. He adeptly portrays a young lad with a sense of naiveté. His vocals in the number "Not While I'm Around," were beautifully reminiscent of a young boy's devotion to his care taker.

The Ensemble, Alyssa Arizpe, Graham Baker, Jessie Brownie, Anne Cape, Mark Hauptfleisch, Henry Herbert, Mark Jamal, Jennifer Laporte, Arielle Murphy, and Hayley Talkington were phenomenal. They breathed life into the performance, filling the stage with their magnificent vocals. From the deepest bass to the highest soprano, the ensemble functioned impeccably to provide a beautiful performance. From the minute the audience walked into the theater, the entire cast was in character, portraying inmates at an asylum. The ensemble brilliantly maintained their small ticks and quirks throughout the production granting superb and wholly affective legitimacy to this directorial choice.

Music Direction by Jack Beetle was flawlessly executed. He deftly kept the pace moving and effectively manages his ensemble of musicians. The inpsired use of the body as acoustics in several of the numbers adds a unique and memorable sound element to the production. Under the direction of Jack Beetle, we are immediately drawn into the aural landscape of the show with the "Organ Prelude" and are left haunted by the gorgeously performed music when the show has finished.

Lighting and Projection Design by Matt Schlief was captivating and brilliant. Matt Schlief has a way of cleverly guiding the audience's focus through the use of light. His spotlight effects during such numbers as "Johanna (Judge's Song): Mea Culpa" added an evocative component to the production. Likewise, his use of projections in the production was genius. From the text spreading across the stage during "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" to each splatter of blood, the projections were masterfully executed.

Costume Design by Paige Willson was meticulous and creative. The materials used were dingy and dirty, similar to what one confined to a 19th century asylum would have access to, but each cast member's ensemble was also cleverly befitting their character. Paige Willson's designs are immaculate. They take into account every detail, from the flour stains present on Mrs. Lovett's dress to the fanciful bows worn by Johanna.

Walking into the theater, the first thing that captures the eye is the brilliant Set Design by Jodi Bobrovsky. Although there are multiple levels connected by a spiral staircase, the set feels dark, dank, and sparse. It is wholly authentic, and reminiscent of a 19th century asylum. Jodi Bobrovsky's Scenic and Properties Design is adroitly executed with attention to even the smallest detail. The use of small objects littered on the stage, such as a mangled doll head, in combination with the large objects indicative of medical torture devices immediately draws the audience in, creating a sense of tension and discomfort. Moreover, the prop items utilized throughout the production were expertly selected and creatively applied to give the viewer the same inescapable feeling that one would have as an inmate in an asylum. The ingenious use of such objects as the medical gurney and the hanging cage successfully adds to the element of madness and brings to life both the dark and playful sides of insanity.

Andrew Harper's Sound Design is remarkable, always keeping the audience on The Edge of their seats. The loud whistle never truly allows the audience to get comfortable as they are in a state of unease, which works so well for this production. Andrew Harper's skillful design successfully ensures that the audience cannot escape the madness that surrounds them and is wonderfully effective.

Generations, A Theatre Company invites audiences to attend the tale of Sweeney Todd in a production that truly heightens the play within a play sensibility of the production. Complete with the invigorating and alluring setting in a 19th century asylum's common room, the miraculous darkness and insanity in the show prevails and presents audiences with an extraordinary experience they'll want to revisit.

Generations, A Theatre Company's production of Stephen Sondheim's SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET runs through July 28, 2013 in Hammon Hall on the Rice University campus. For more information or tickets, please visit http://www.generationsatc.org/ or call (832) 326 - 1045.

Photos by Caroline Brock. Courtesy of Generations, A Theatre Company


Kregg Dailey as Sweeney Todd & Michael Bevan as Tobias.


Forrest Surles as Anthony & Stephanie Styles as Johanna.


Kregg Dailey as Sweeney Todd & Kristin Warren as Mrs. Lovett.


The cast of Generations, A Theatre Company's SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET.



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