Review: SWEENEY TODD at Greasepaint Youtheatre

The production, directed by Trevon Powell, runs through May 14th at the Stagebrush Theatre in Scottsdale, AZ.

Review: A SOLDIERS PLAY at ASU Gammage

BroadwayWorld is delighted to welcome Suzanne Whitaker as guest contributor. In this review, she brings her discerning perspective and voice to the coverage of Greasepaint Youtheatre's production of Hugh Wheeler's musical, SWEENEY TODD.

Here now - From the keyboard of Suzanne Whitaker:

Arizona's Greasepaint Youtheatre's production of SWEENEY TODD, THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, opened May 5th to a packed house in Scottsdale, Arizona. This venue has very comfortable seats with plenty of leg room, easy access, and a lovely setting showcased by a Cinco de Mayo celebration for opening night. The first act's conclusion led to free tacos and margaritas on the beautifully lit patio, all provided by Scottsdale Community Theater supporters. Snacks and drinks are also available for purchase.

SWEENEY TODD is a meaty and macabre musical, telling stories of exile, revenge, and love. Arcadia High School senior Noah Sucato's portrayal of Sweeney Todd is resolute and emotionally robust, and the role of Mrs. Lovett is splendidly played by Phoenix Country Day School junior Nora Palermo. Their Londoner accents are easily understood, with Mrs. Lovett in particular, true to tone and scene throughout the performance. Each actor's musical range is very impressive, and there was only a brief, slightly off-key performance by a timid Anthony, otherwise wonderfully performed by Chandler High School junior Bennett Smith, at the very beginning of Act 1. Opening night nerves, in my opinion.

Youtheater's set is appropriately austere, given nineteenth century London's economic woes, and the staging and blocking triangulate the torment between Judge Turpin, played by a perfectly cast Nathan Sullivan from Paradise Valley High School; his young ward, Johanna, played by Katie Stone in her Greasepaint debut; and her admirer, the young Anthony.

Act 2 likewise contrasts the innocent pie-making lad Tobias (Archway Scottsdale's Classical Academy third-grader Lucas Moran in his Greasepaint debut) with Mrs. Lovett and Mr. Beadle, and the boy with Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney, with the adults in the parlor of Mrs. Lovett's home while Tobias learns to make pies. Judge Turpin's tormented self-flagellation down left contrasts well with Johanna's restful reading down right.

Review: A SOLDIERS PLAY at ASU Gammage

For the easily distracted, like me, longer curtains up left would have prevented glimpsing swishing dresses backstage as the ensemble and characters moved about.

The lighting, makeup, and costuming are spot-on, conveying the brooding bloodiness of revenge by Sweeney Todd, while pastel backdrops and softer lighting underscore the sweet love story of Johanna and Anthony. The song "Johanna" is wonderfully wistful and magnificently performed by Bennett Smith. The shopkeepers' financial improvement at the beginning of Act 2 is evident with fancier costumes and a larger ensemble of meat-pie diners, as well as a new and efficient barber chair for Sweeney and a larger oven for Mrs. Lovett.

The young lad Tobias, both the role and the actor, are upstaged by Chaparral High School freshman Olivia Feldman, artfully and energetically playing the role of Mrs. Pirelli, whose animated face and comical gesticulations highlight her snake-oil-selling character. Perhaps Tobias is meant to seem shy in Act 1, as I could barely hear him, but he became louder as he grew up, and into, a larger role in Act 2. Otherwise, audio was appropriate to each scene and each character.

Rounding out the main cast is Eli Franklin making his Greasepaint debut in the role of Beadle, and Arizona School for the Arts senior Sydney Vance playing the beggar-woman.

Directed by Trevon Powell with assist from Peter Bish and the outstanding musical direction of Mary Ellen Loose, the cast and ensemble move, and freeze, right on cue. The center stage revolving barber-and-pie shop also serves as the asylum, Fleet Street itself, and the cloud-lit dusky streets of London. Stagehands deftly make these changes.

Overall, this rendition of Sweeney Todd is an outstanding performance, especially considering Greasepaint is a youth theater. It was easy to forget that these are mostly high school students playing complex adult roles. I look forward to seeing their names in lights in their bright futures.

SWEENEY TODD runs through May 14th at the Stagebrush Theatre in Scottsdale, AZ.

Greasepaint Youtheatre ~ 7020 E 2nd Street, Scottsdale, AZ ~ Click Here ~ 480-949-7529

Photo credit to Durant Photography

Graphic credit to Greasepaint Youtheatre


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