Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Road Broadway Overview: Josh Groban & Annaleigh Ashford Triumph In Sondheim Masterpiece
Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
In a Broadway season which may be remembered for a stunning, weathered minimalism, the compelling harshness of A dollhouse with Jessica Chastain, the less-is-more virtually concert-style shows Within the forest and Parade director Thomas Kails Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Road it’s going to stand out, amongst many different traits, for its full, unabashed ambition. A surprising theatrical occasion that goals for greatness and achieves it, this revival of the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler masterpiece is to not be missed.
With Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford main a flawless, 25-member forged that additionally contains Stranger Issues Gaten Matarazzo (given one of many prettiest songs in Not Whereas Im Round, and I nail it), the revival, opening tonight on the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, makes the belief that Sweeney could also be Sondheims biggest work (at the least till his subsequent manufacturing Sunday within the Park comes collectively).
A prime Broadway artistic group on the prime of its recreation led by Hamiltons Kail, who has maybe by no means been more proficient at combining grand theatricality with cautious consideration to even the smallest element of character. He’s assisted by choreographer Stephen Hoggett, whose indelible work above Harry Potter and the Cursed Baby might be answerable for why so many misremember this play as a musical. Right here Hoggett offers Sweeney an unstoppable rush via the movement, with the nice mass of Victorian townspeople twitching and jerking in unison one second and breaking right into a sort of synchronized chaos the following.
Nowhere is that this fusion of route, choreography and ensemble efficiency extra compelling than with the musical quantity that opens Act II: God, Thats Good! has residents crowding the newly fashionable pie store on the middle of this ugly story, seated Final Supper-style on the counter of Mrs. Lovetts’s restaurant, their rapturous expressions of enjoyment blended with fleeting convulsions like zombies consuming their fellow Londoners, moreover, they both realize it or not.
Somewhat above SweeneyStoryline: Primarily based on a personality fashionable in Nineteenth-century London’s fearsome pens, the bloodthirsty, razor-sharp barber caught the Sondheims’ consideration when the composer attended a Christopher Bond play in 1973. Sondheim collaborated with the librettist Hugh Wheeler and director Harold Prince to current the 1979 musical, probably the most operatic composers, starring Len Cariou as Sweeney and Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett, a manufacturing that may tackle an virtually legendary standing in Broadway historical past. .
The musical has been carried out many instances since, each on Broadway and Off, often in scaled-down variations that stop any direct comparability to the grand, absolutely orchestrated ’79 manufacturing.
To date. Cale, Groban and Ashford throw warning to the wind and dare to satisfy Sweeney on his personal outsized, baked phrases, and comes out bloody victorious. Grammy-winning Groban’s baritone was put to even higher use than in his spectacular 2016 Broadway debut because the star of the all-too-soon Natasha, Pierre & The Nice Comet of 1812, turns right into a full-fledged Broadway star, his efficiency dwelling as much as each whoop and holler from the military of die-hard Grobanites who welcome his entrance into the Lunt-Fontanne. His Sweeney is by turns sympathetic and monstrous, particularly the latter, as he needs to be: Sweeney Todd, as soon as London’s biggest barber, now his most diabolical, after a 15-year false imprisonment, his spouse raped and run off for to die, and his daughter stolen and raised by the decide behind each misfortune.
Assembly Grobans efficiency at each flip is Ashford (Sunday within the park with Georgetelevisions Breaking), having many of the comedy musical parts beautifully, her timing is spot on, her Cockney accent is a treasure and her attractive vocals mesh so effectively with the Grobans that they are left hoping for a live performance duets album as a follow-up to the inevitable Sweeney forged recording
So the story goes. Sweeney, who escaped from jail by sea, arrives in London 15 years after his exile, returning to the house he as soon as shared along with his spouse and daughter, his former barbershop now made right into a meat pie by a Mrs. Nellie Lovett. As meat turns into scarce, the store fails (as Lovett explains in The Worst Pies in London), however quickly the Sweeneys’ revenge fantasies and the Lovetts’ desires of economic safety merge right into a fantastical, cannibalistic plan: The demon barber will minimize his neck by his enemies (a listing that grows to incorporate all of humanity) and the baker will use the byproduct to fill her pastries.
Earlier than lengthy, Sweeney and Lovett haven’t any finish to the demand for his or her unusually scrumptious pies, and even tackle a sidekick, the orphan Tobias (Matarazzo, effectively substituting characters who’re strange and doubtlessly offensive for a easy, candy innocence that works extraordinarily effectively).
A subplot considerations Sweeney’s now-married daughter Johanna (soprano Maria Bilbao, making an excellent Broadway debut) and her secret beau Anthony (the enticing Jordan Fisher of Expensive Evan Hansen and televisions Hire: Reside). Neither Johanna nor the Sweeneys’ pal Anthony know the ladies’ true origins, and so they even have their very own worries: Johanna is saved, Rapunzel-like, locked away by the protecting and cruel decide who raised her.
Here is such place to give attention to set designer Mimi Liens great, multi-layered creation: Bilbaos Johanna seems more often than not locked excessive, generally very excessive, above the principle motion of the musical, identical to the brutality of the Sweeneys (with out pun supposed) often saved within the second-rate store centered on the well-known gimmicky barber chair that sends the useless via a chute delivering the grind-ready our bodies on to Mrs. Lovetts’ basement bakery. Victorian London was nothing if not hierarchical.
Similar to she did together with her theater-filled present Nice Comet, Lien right here makes use of each inch of area within the huge efficiency space of the huge and regal Lunt-Fontanne. Beneath a grand brick arch and multi-purpose metallic bridge, Liens encapsulation of Victorian gloom contains an enormous, working crane that looms ominously over the proceedings and, at instances, over the viewers, the very image of a brand new, overwhelming modernity, a mechanism as dehumanizing as it’s useful.
The set is a part of an impeccable artistic effort that features costumes by Emilio Sosas, eerie German expressionist lighting design by Natasha Katzs, J. Jared Janas spot-on wig, hair and make-up designs, some thrilling particular results courtesy of Jeremy Chernick and Nevin Steinbergs sound design that offers vivid life and scope to Jonathan Tunicks’ full-length orchestrations.
Even on this artistic atmosphere, and with musical numbers that rank among the many Sondheims, only a sampling: The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, Poor Factor, Johanna, Fairly Girls, Not Whereas Im Round and that comedian A Little Priest a forged it may have any variety of alternatives for failure. Sweeney Todd it is a vocally difficult work, to say the least, and the steadiness of brutality and comedy in each rating and e-book may get the blood pumping in all however essentially the most expert performers.
This manufacturing does not have to fret about that. The massive forged is with no weak hyperlink. Groban, Ashford and Matarazzo would do effectively to begin serious about what they will put on to this 12 months’s Tonys (though competitors within the musical classes shall be fierce). Bilbao and Fisher rise to the problem of holding our curiosity when Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett aren’t round, and Jamie Jackson as Choose Turpin and John Rapson as Beadle Bamford are every thing you might need in Victorian villainy and music. concord. Ruthie Ann Miles, because the beggar together with her personal secrets and techniques, is, as all the time, a delight, whether or not singing (No Place Like London) or warning, as Cassandra, of Mischief! Dangerous! Dangerous!
A lot has been made over time concerning the Sondheims’ disagreements with Prince over the presentation and even the which means of Sweeney Todd, with the composer eternally insisting that the story was a particular, private story of a person’s obsession with revenge, whereas Prince noticed one thing larger, extra expansive, with Sweeney and his fellow Londoners locked within the historical past of industrialism. On this newest revival of the layered work, Kail and his firm of actors and designers have managed to serve each masters, offering, with all of the effectivity of that barber’s chair, a Sweeney Todd which is as particular as it’s sweeping and as mesmerizing to take a look at as it’s great to sound.
Title: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Road
Assembly level: Broadways Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
Director: Thomas Cale
Guide: Hugh Wheeler
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Essential Actor: Josh Groban, Annaleigh Ashford, Jordan Fisher, Gaten Matarazzo, Ruthie Ann Miles, Maria Bilbao, Jamie Jackson, John Rapson, Nicholas Christopher.
Working time: 2 hours 45 minutes (together with intermission)