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Review: SWEENEY TODD by New Generation Theatrical

Review: SWEENEY TODD by New Generation Theatrical

A thrilling, fresh, and bloody good take on this dark Sondheim classic presented immersively at Orlando's The Mezz

Review: SWEENEY TODD by New Generation Theatrical How do you take a brilliant piece of classic musical theatre and improve upon it? Some theatres accomplish this by reimagining the content in a modern context, others by updating orchestrations and musical arrangements. But some, like Orlando's New Generation Theatrical's production of SWEENEY TODD, break down the typical stage barriers and immerse the audience in the material, creating an environmental experience that allows even the most seasoned theatregoer to see (and hear) a production with a fresh perspective. And this production delivers in more ways than one - from the brilliant vocals, creative designs, immersive staging, and even the delicious meat pies (yes, there are actual meat pies - more on that in a moment) this latest production in New Generation Theatrical's premiere season is a bloody good night at the theatre.

Review: SWEENEY TODD by New Generation Theatrical SWEENEY TODD tells the tale of a barber (Alexander Mrazek) who returns to London after being wrongfully imprisoned for 15 years. He finds that the wife he left behind suffered a terrible ordeal at the hands of a malicious Judge (usually played by Shonn McCloud but performed on the night I attended by David Bracamonte) and poisoned herself, leaving their young daughter, Joanna (Esmeralda Nazario) under the care of the same Judge. The barber, now going under the name of Sweeney Todd, vows revenge and sets up shop above a struggling pie shop run by the wily Mrs. Lovett (Rebecca Fisher). Sweeney comes close to exacting his revenge, but due to a number of twists, misses his chance. Enraged, Sweeney snaps and begins slitting the throats of unsuspecting Londoners who come in for a haircut or shave while he waits to get his true quarry, Judge Turpin and his Beadle (Jarrett Poore). But what to do with all those bodies stacking up? Mrs. Lovett, "eminently practical as always", suggests solving both her meat pie supply-chain problems and Sweeney's body disposal challenge by baking the victims into pies and serving them to unsuspecting customers. But as with any dark tale such as this one, the outcome of this plan is not only bloody, but tragic as well.

Review: SWEENEY TODD by New Generation Theatrical With music by the late, great Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler, SWEENEY TODD is a masterpiece on many levels. From its unlikely subject matter (something Sondheim does so well), to its brilliant score and its entertaining story, this is a musical that hits all the right notes. And as noted earlier, New Generation Theatrical is presenting the show immersively, which breathes fresh life into the piece. The cast moves in and out of the audience and performs some of the bigger ensemble pieces mixed amongst those seated in the audience which creates an added layer of tension and panic on top of the already intense orchestrations. The orchestra, led by Music Director Tim Haines is also nestled amongst the audience creating a wall of sound that thrills. Directors Katie Dumoulin and Kenny Howard have done a great job using the space well, bringing the actors in and out stealthily, often creating a feeling of shock and surprise - perfect for a production of SWEENEY TODD. Due to the breadth of the space at The Mezz, depending on where you are seated there could be some action obstructed by columns or other people - so I recommend the table seating, if possible, for the best view.

Review: SWEENEY TODD by New Generation Theatrical The actors embodying the sometimes frightening but always entertaining characters in SWEENEY TODD are all magnificent. The power of the ensemble numbers is palpable (partly due to their proximity) and their characterization is so much creepier when you are 5 feet away. In the title role of Sweeney, Alexander Mrazek is brilliantly menacing, unhinged, yet also introspective and lonely. Mr. Mrazek's clear and bellowing baritone/bass voice is flawless and conveys the snarl and sinister tones of Sweeney's numbers just perfectly. As his partner-in-crime, Mrs. Lovett, Rebecca Fisher is equally brilliant - delivering Mrs. Lovett's musical numbers with aplomb and garnering much of the evening's laughs. Other standout performances include Ricky Cona's Tobias who delivers the naivety and sincerity of the character extremely well. He also shows off a gorgeous tenor voice, especially in the beautiful second act number "Not While I'm Around". David Bracamonte's Judge Turpin is a bit more foppish than foul but he is able to show off an equally smooth baritone in the wonderful number with Mr. Mrazek, "Pretty Women". As his right-hand man, Beadle Bamford, Jarrett Poore is quite funny and does a great job with the Beadle's smarmy and slimy role. Esmeralda Nazario does a great job with Joanna's "Green Finch and Linnet Bird" and as her love interest, Anthony, Kerry Alce is sufficiently lovestruck. Kamryn Burton gives a solid performance as the Beggar Woman as does Salvatore Viera who is quite hilarious as Adolfo Pirelli.

Review: SWEENEY TODD by New Generation Theatrical The setting of this immersive production is on a London street (mostly Fleet Street, though others at times) where the audience is able to peer into the establishments of Mr. Todd and Mrs. Lovett (and the sinister bakehouse in between). Cliff Price's set design is perfectly suited for the space at The Mezz and he adds some brilliant touches including industrial piping and stylized lighting for added effect. Speaking of lighting, Sonia Pasqual's lighting design adds some great texture at times, but there were a few scenes spanning the stage where a bit more light could have helped. Donald Spencer brings a modern sensibility to the costume design - playing with textures and prints in a way that works quite well - especially with the ensemble's costumes.

And I promised to talk more about the meat pies - another unique offering from New Generation Theatrical's production. For an added cost, audiences can choose to arrive at the theatre 90 minutes early and be served a meat pie (beef, chicken or vegan) and some "mead" (aka Champagne). The pie (from Puff n Stuff caterers) was delicious (as was the champagne) and set the mood perfectly for the story to come, and I was promised that no people were harmed in the making of the pies.

Overall, New Generation Theatrical's immersive production of SWEENEY TODD is a thrilling, fresh take on this dark Sondheim classic. Even if you have seen the show many times before, I imagine you haven't ever seen it like this - the audience immersed in the action adds a new layer of urgency, excitement and, yes, fear, to the experience. So don't miss this chance to see this classic piece of Musical Theatre in a new and refreshing way (and with pie too!).

Review: SWEENEY TODD by New Generation Theatrical

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET by New Generation Theatrical runs at The Mezz at 100 S. Eola Drive, Orlando, FL 32801 through July 17. Tickets can be purchased by visiting

All Photos provided by New Generation Theatrical

From This Author - Joseph Harrison

Joseph Harrison has been involved with the theatre in some form or fashion all his life. He holds a Journalism degree from the University of Georgia, but his true love is the theatre which he has been... (read more about this author)

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