‘Sweeney Todd’ cuts onto High Street
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
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...
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.