BWW Review: Arizona Broadway Theatre Presents SWEENEY TODD ~ A Cut Above!

BWW Review: Arizona Broadway Theatre Presents SWEENEY TODD ~ A Cut Above!

Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but if you really want to cut to the chase, a shave by the Demon Barber of Fleet Street will fit the bill even better with the added bonus of a savory serving of hot meat pie. SWEENEY TODD proves the point and provides the chilling details.

Stephen Sondheim's Tony Award-winning musical feels like a tribute to Greek tragedy, Shakespearean irony, and classic opera. It runs like a marathon through the grimy streets of 19th Century London to the glimmering gates of romance just above the fray.

The ensemble poses as the Chorus, narrating the story of the aggrieved Sweeney, nee Benjamin Barker, who, falsely imprisoned at the hands of the lecherous Judge Turpin (who had more than eyes on the baker's wife), returns from exile to wreak justice. He sets up his chop shop above the premises of one Mrs. Lovett, a risqué risk-taker, with her eyes sets on more than net profits.

Tony Edgerton (a cold and calculated Sweeney) and Cassandra Klaphake (as Mrs. Lovett, in a performance as razor sharp as Sweeney's blade) heat things up big time in Arizona Broadway Theatre's production of the show, directed by Kiel Klaphake. The two have magnificent voices that they match with superb acting and calibrate to the emotions of the moment. Edgerton brings a steely-eyed mix of desperation and evil to his role. He stands tall, legs astride, a human guillotine, embodying a prince of deadly mischief but one burdened with a broken heart. Cassandra K. is the yin to Edgerton's yang, nailing her role with a fine balance of vocal prowess and comic sensibility. The chemistry of the two gel in a knockout rendition of A Little Priest, a hilarious cornucopia of Sondheimesque rhymes and puns.

There is much more to enjoy in this production ~ standout performances by Trisha Hart Ditsworth (a prominent role well-deserved by this local talent) as Johanna, Todd's daughter and the reluctant ward of the sinister Judge Turpin (Steve McCoy); Ryan Michael Crimmins as the young seaman who takes a shine to Johanna; Michael O'Brien as The Beadle, Turpin's flamboyant lackey; Meggie Siegrist as a salacious beggar woman; and a terrific ensemble.

Then, too, there is Tristan Klaphake (who must bring pride to his parents' hearts), owning a choirboy's voice, as he does a yeoman's job in the role of Tobias, Sweeney's young apprentice. If there's a moment that rises above the musical's plot, it's the tender exchange between mother and son in Lovett and Tobias's promise of fidelity, Not While I'm Around.

SWEENEY TODD runs through September 16th at Herberger Theater Center's Center Stage in Phoenix.

Photo credit to Shari Corbett

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