‘Sweeney Todd’ cuts onto High Street

Kent County News - - SOCIAL SCENE - By JACK RODGERS jrodgers@thekent­coun­tynews.com

Most peo­ple have seen at least one pop cul­ture ref­er­ence to “Sweeney Todd: The De­mon Barber of Fleet Street.” The play, known as one of the dark­est plays to see the stage, has found its way to the Garfield Cen­ter of the Arts in Chestertown.

Mil­len­ni­als might be fa­mil­iar with at least the ti­tle of the play from the pop­u­lar sit­com “The Of­fice,” which ded­i­cated an episode to the mu­si­cal. Oth­ers might be fa­mil­iar with ac­tor Johnny Depp’s por­trayal of Todd that sliced its way into the­aters in 2007.

The play fol­lows the story of Ben­jamin Barker, a barber ac­cused of a crime he did not com­mit, and his path to re­venge on the judge who sen­tenced him.

Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Garfield Cen­ter of the Arts, Tess Ho­gans gave a warn­ing about the play’s dark­ness and con­tent be­fore the show be­gan Satur­day night.

Di­rec­tor She­lagh Grasso notes in the play’s pro­gram that “the plot does seem to fol­low a theme of re­venge, but if you ex­plore the depth of the script and re­search the time pe­riod in Eng­land, you will find much more than re­venge. You

find Lon­don in 1860 with all its dirt and squalor, and a class sys­tem that al­lows the up­per class to com­pletely rule over the lower class.”

Grasso also notes that she has wanted to di­rect “Sweeney Todd” since she first saw the play in the 1990s.

Grasso takes a fa­mil­iar ap­proach in telling a clas­sic story, com­plete with a pierc­ing train whis­tle sig­ni­fy­ing the chang­ing of scenes and im­por­tant mo­ments, like Todd’s first ar­rival in Lon­don.

The set ro­tates dur­ing al­most ev­ery scene in the per­for­mance, mak­ing an ex­cep­tional use of the small stage with de­tach­able stairs, which func­tion as bal­conies, en­trance steps and other im­por­tant scenery.

A fold­ing chair and hid­den door cre­ate Todd’s in­fa­mous bar­ber­shop and blood cap­sules make the show in­tense and in­volved, as ac­tors slide from their demise into a hid­den com­part­ment be­low the set.

Christo­pher Wal­lace, who plays Todd, ap­pears with a sunken face and dis­tracted de­meanor of a man dis­turbed. The most sober­ing mo­ment of Wal­lace’s per­for­mance is not the fi­nal twist, but rather the in­dif­fer­ence in his de­meanor through­out the play.

Dur­ing, “By The Sea,” where Mrs. Lovett, played by Jane Cop­ple, is dis­cussing her fu­ture with Todd, Wal­lace is per­fectly de­pressed and dis­tracted. Cop­ple is fan­tas­tic through­out her per­for­mance as Mrs. Lovett, adding a tinge of com­edy to the mor­bid am­biance of the play.

Al­though the en­tire cast’s per­for­mance was im­pec­ca­ble, other no­table stand­outs in­cluded Shan­non Whi­taker who played Jo­hanna Barker and Nic Carter who played Bea­dle Bam­ford.

Whi­taker’s por­trayal of a damsel in dis­tress in Jo­hanna is foiled by Max Ha­gan’s An­thony Hope, who pro­vides one of two op­ti­mistic voices in the pro­duc­tion.

Over­all, Grasso de­liv­ers a beau­ti­fully macabre story seam­lessly to the Garfield Cen­ter’s stage.

Per­for­mances are May 4 to 6 and May 11 to 13. Fri­days and Satur­days shows be­gin at 8 p.m. and Sun­days at 3 p.m. Tick­ets are $20 gen­eral ad­mis­sion, $15 se­nior and military and $10 for stu­dents of all ages.

To pur­chase tick­ets visit www.garfield­cen­ter.org or call the box of­fice at 410810-2060. The Garfield Cen­ter is lo­cated at 210

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO BY JEFF WE­BER

From left, Jane Cop­ple as Mrs. Lovett, Christo­pher Wal­lace as Sweeney Todd, Dave Ryan and Mal­lory Westlund, cho­rus, Matt Folker as the judge and Ken­dall Davis as Danc­ing Lucy re­hearse for “Sweeney Todd.” Per­for­mances are at 8 p.m. Fri­days and Satur­days...

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO BY JEFF WE­BER

From left, Zack Sch­lag as Pirelli and Natalie Lane as To­bias re­hearse a scene from the Garfield Cen­ter for the Arts mu­si­cal “Sweeney Todd.” The play will run for two more week­ends at the Garfield Cen­ter.

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