To be honest, prior to watching this musical at Western, I had never seen Sweeney Todd before, not even the Johnny Depp/Helena Bonham Carter film version. Ridiculous, I know, but blood and guts are not my forte, so I avoided Sweeney Todd like the plague.
You’re probably wondering why I decided to see this production at Western. For one thing, I had to see the production for my theatre class. For another thing, I kind of wanted to see what I’ve been missing. And let me tell you, I’ve been missing a lot. I have seen a handful of productions at Western, and I have to say, this was the best one I’ve seen, hands down.
As far as the casting goes, I was impressed. Ray Johnson, who played Sweeney Todd, was the perfect mixture of creepy and relatable. Even though he was brutally murdering a ton of people throughout the production, I found myself still rooting for him. I wanted him to get his vengeance, especially considering his tragic past. Xan Kellogg, who played the beggar woman, was intensely powerful. It was evident that she had fallen into the role and her character was easy to believe.
I think the show’s biggest strength was its vocal talent. Overall, I was flabbergasted at the level of talent in this production. The chorus performers, who came onstage every couple scenes to perform a short song, were my favorite part of the show. Their facial expressions, morbid make-up, and ability to harmonize well with each other gave me goosebumps at times.
Ray Johnson gave the best singing performance, I thought. He committed to every word and I loved it. Adrienne Collins, who played Johanna, was glowing. Her sweet innocence that competed with her desire to find herself in the world outside her creepy pedophile father’s window was compelling, and vocally, she shined, her soft voice perfectly riding on the melodies of her trademark song, “Green Finch and Linnet Bird.”
Some comedic relief came in Sebastian Smith’s portrayal of Adolfo Pirelli, the world-renowned Italian barber who challenges Todd to a “barber off” of sorts, where the two compete for bragging rights. This scene gave a much needed break to the viewers, who were able to come up for air and get some laughter in before Todd began his killing spree just a few scenes later.
Coming from someone who gets squeamish while watching anything remotely bloody, I have to say that I wish the death scenes had been a bit more realistic. When Sweeney sliced the necks of his victims, a red sash was pulled out of their collars. I wish there had been fake blood or something more visually appealing, as these scenes were a crucial element of the plot. I loved the barber chair though, how each victim would get dropped down a hatch immediately following their deaths. Technically, this was done very well.
At the end of the show, I stood up and gave the cast and crew the standing ovation they deserved. The show was well acted, well sang, and overall, a gripping, blood-stained piece. If you’ve seen Sweeney Todd before, or even if you haven’t, take the time out of your Saturday night or Sunday afternoon to witness some of Western’s most talented performers bring the treacherous tale of Sweeney Todd to life.