BWW Previews: SWEENEY TODD THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET at Quincy Music Theatre #AttendTheTale - Dark, Dangerous, Delicious

I would love to have been a fly on the wall as Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince collaborated on Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Maybe one of them said, "what's the darkest topic we could tackle that will allow us to incorporate gorgeous musicality?"

Being an audience member of a production of Sweeney Todd is demanding. Between the story's shortcuts, the rapid plot developments and the fact that the characters' moral fulcrums seem to drift, there's a lot to keep up with.

I appreciate the director of the Quincy Music Theater's production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Naomi Rose-Mock, inviting me to attend the dress final dress rehearsal before the show's August 18 opening.

Set in nineteenth century London, Sweeney Todd (Shawn McCauley) finds himself returning to London after being unfairly exiled (here's where the "love is complicated" theme begins asserting itself in this show, as it continues to do throughout).

Sweeney holds a grudge, and he does not waver from his intent to gain justice against the judge who orchestrated his 15-year absence from London and separated him from his wife.

Sweeney is incomplete in many ways, which is understandable given his losses; the moment when Mrs. Lovett hands him his barber implements back and he exclaims "My right arm is complete again" was a pivotal moment in this show.

Just as single-minded is Mrs. Lovett (Melinda Melindez), who fools us by demonstrating a lightheartedness that betrays the depths to which she will go to get what she wants. (Melindez also mastered Mrs. Lovett's accent perfectly.)

This show hews to the gritty fact that life is unfair. As a 2017 audience member, I found myself thinking, "they could have resolved this issue with Google and a Department of Health Inspector."

But Google did not exist in the 1800s, so Anthony (Jonathan Hoch) doesn't give up on Johanna (and is oblivious to the fact that his acquaintance Sweeney is related to her).

Sweeney's barbershop keeps getting customers and Mrs. Lovett keeps dishing out pies, thrilled that business is booming and unrepentant that her business methods are, to say the least, questionable.

There were so many vocal standouts in this show, it is daunting to single anyone out, but Johanna (Carlie Adams), Anthony Hope (Jonathan Hoch), and Adolfo Pirelli (Jon Mathes) deserve special mentions.

This show also demands exceptionally high register performance from male ensemble members, and it delivered.

Sweeney Todd's "unique services" require "unique set design" and this set made Sweeney's shop setup seem very believable.

Every ensemble number was sharply performed (choreography by Taylor Whittle); the numbers exuded the show's dark intent and capitalized on a cadre of more-than-capable vocalists.

There were a few very minor pacing inconsistencies and I would bet on a meat pie those will be ironed out rapidly when energized by a full audience (on second thought, this show makes vegan pies look awfully attractive!)

Judy Arthur's orchestra also deserves mention for adding an additional nuance to the show's suspense.

This production's hashtag, #AttendTheTale, hearkens back to the first line of the first song of the show. The song, The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, goes on to discuss how Sweeney "heard music that nobody heard," noting "Sweeney pondered and Sweeney planned, like a perfect machine he planned."

Visit Quincy Music Theater August 18-27. This is a cast and crew who have pondered and planned; it's a dark machine they've created and many of its components come close to creating perfection.

(And I would advise parents to use their judgement as the content can be disturbing for young children.)

Photo Credits: Naomi Rose-Mock and Judy Stone.

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From This Author Paula Kiger

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