In a Directors Viewpoint of the Arizona Broadway Theatre’s production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

By Jay Horne

Tony Edgerton as Sweeney Todd

History by Wikipedia

Sweeney Todd is a 1979 musical thriller with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler. The musical is based on the 1973 play by Christopher Bond. The original production premiered on Broadway – NYC at the Uris Theatre on March 1, 1979, and closed on June 29, 1980, after 557 performances and 19 previews. It was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning eight of them including Best Musical. It was also nominated for thirteen Drama Desk Awards and won nine of them. In the 1980 London production, it was nominated for three Laurence Olivier Awards and won two. In a 1989 Broadway revival, it was again nominated for four Tony Awards, as well as five Drama Desk Awards, winning one. Sweeney Todd also played in Barcelona, Spain; South Africa; Australia; Paris; Dublin; and all over the United States to very enthusiastic audiences and many other awards. Finally, the movie in 2007 won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedies. It is truly one of the best musicals ever. I had seen the original Broadway production with my wife Vivian in 1979. I also reviewed it at The Herberger Theater Center opening night Sept. 4, 2018, by the Arizona Broadway Theatre in partnership with The Herberger Theater in Phoenix, Arizona.

At this time, my dear readers, I would like to share some thoughts by the author, and how he felt about this great classical musical.

“There have been at least seven versions of Sweeney Todd since George Dibdin-Pitt’s original melodrama was first performed in 1847 at the Britannia Theatre, a London bloodbath theatre, whose main objective was to stun its audiences with a holocaust of thrills, horrors, and shocks.

“But even before this Sweeney Todd, the legendary and mad barber, was the hero of a ‘Penny Dreadful’ (one of the news sheets sold on street corners in Victorian Days) and, since then, for more than a century in England he has become a household word. ‘Sweeney Todd will get you if you don’t watch out,’ has been more than enough to send countless thousands of recalcitrant children scurrying to finish their porridge or to jump into bed. However, it is not only the children who are haunted by Sweeney Todd. He is the demon, the half admitted shadowy lodger, who lurks in the back of your minds, not a barber to be trifled with.”

You can see why in my final recommendation this is not a show (although a great one) for young children to see!

Tony Edgerton as Sweeney Todd

It was an almost full house, anticipating a great show and delicious food. They weren’t disappointed as they saw another great professional show and very appetizing food which is overseen by Daniell Stelter, the Food and Beverage Director. There was loud applause and a complete standing ovation at the end of the show. At my table was Mr. Ed Kearns, with a bouquet of white roses. I told him “how nice of you to bring this to me” (jokingly). Actually, it was for his daughter Azra Kearns, only five years old. Azra was very adorable. She appeared in many scenes as part of The Company in the two acts. They are Phoenix residents.

A short synopsis of Sweeney Todd: in 1846, a young sailor, Anthony Hope, and the mysterious Sweeney Todd, whom Anthony has recently rescued at sea and befriended, dock in London. A crazed beggar woman sexually solicits them, appearing to recognize Todd for a moment, and Todd shoos her away. Todd relates some of this troubled past to Anthony. He was a native barber, banished by a crooked judge who lusted after Todd’s wife. Leaving Anthony, Todd enters a pie shop on Fleet Street, where the owner, the slatternly widow, Mrs. Lovett, laments the scarcity of meat customers. When Todd asks about her upstairs apartment, she reveals that it’s former tenant, Benjamin Barker, was transported on false charges by a local judge. What follows is for you, my friends, to discover and enjoy as this very exciting show unfolds with action and terrific musical and explosive scenes!

So now let me get to Sweeney Todd the show. As you enter the theatre, the curtain is open, and you see Fleet Street scene of the mid-1800s in London, England. During various scenes, the performers realigned the sets for different areas. This was done very well, without any hesitation and professionally. The costumes were of the Victorian period of the 1800s, as well as hair and makeup, which made it all look original to that period.

Cassandra Klaphake (Mrs. Lovett) and Tony Edgerton (Sweeney Todd)

In regard to this very talented cast of 23: they all performed with absolute perfection: character, vocally, and their intermingling with each other. The action was quick paced. It was as if you were transported to seeing a great operetta at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. My wife Vivian and I went to many such shows (an operetta styled musical at the Metropolitan) when we lived back in the New York area, and this production of Sweeney Todd by ABT would be listed as one of the best the Metropolitan produced.

Sweeney Todd has 18 musical numbers in Act I and eight in Act II. There are many exciting numbers such as “Poor Thing, “My Friends, “Kiss Me, “Pretty Woman,” “Johanna,” and “The Ballard of Sweeney Todd” as well as many others. In my opinion, the entire show had showstopper numbers.

At this time, I would like to acknowledge some of the people who contributed to this most professional production by Arizona Broadway Theatre.

Tony Edgerton – (Sweeney Todd) Welcome back to another ABT production. You have (again) one of the best performances as an actor that I have seen in my many years associated with theatre. Not only characterizations as well as vocalization. Just a tremendous portrayal. Thank you!

Cassandra Klaphake – (Mrs. Lovett): Congratulations on a most wonderful character and especially vocalization. Once more, my good friend, you showed what a true professional you are on stage and your other capacities.

Steve McCoy – (Judge Turpin): A very hearty welcome back to ABT. You gave a very believable, detestable, raunchy characterization. Just a super professional performance.

Tristan Klaphake – (Tobias): Young man, once more you have joined your parents as the terrific performers they are. Every time I see you, never do you disappoint. A superb character and vocalization, particularly your rendition with Mrs. Lovett (your mom) of “Not While I’m Around.”

Matthew Mello – (The Beadle) Welcome back to ABT. Excellent characterization, and vocalizing. Congrats on a job well done.

Matt Flocco – (Pirelli) Welcome to ABT. Excellent wacky characterization. Very professional performance.

Meggie Siegrist – (Beggar Woman) Welcome back to ABT. Just an absolutely great performance, character, vocalizing.

Ryan Michael Crimmins – (Anthony) Welcome back to ABT. Congratulations on a very good characterization and vocally, particularly “Kiss Me” with Johanna.

Nicki Sledge – (Johanna) Welcome to ABT. Terrific performance in all aspects. Particularly in “Green Finch and Linnet Bird”.

Tony Edgerton (Sweeney Todd) and Cassandra Klaphake (Mrs. Lovett)

To all of the 14 Company Members – a great professional and entertaining performance throughout the entire show, and to all be proud in accomplishing a great production of this very classic show of Sweeney Todd.

Kiel Klaphake – (Director) Congratulations on a most professional job in bringing the show together. You and Cassandra and Tristan made this opening 15th season show at ABT more memorable for all that attended, including myself. Thank you as always, my friend, for your caring and professionalism.

Kurtis Overby – (Choreographer) Just another very professional job, in bringing this very talented cast together with perfect movements.

James May – (Musical Director) As always, James, your direction in backing up the performers and all your musicians with you in the pit – a job superbly well done.

Aaron Shecklar – (Original Scenic Design) Great job, a very authentic looking 1800s London set, super believable.

Kathleen Trott – (Costume Design) Great job with the Victorian age costuming, and to all your helpers, very believable.

Amanda Gran – (Wig / and Makeup Design) Excellent job in making the cast members believable looking, affecting the characterizations.

In a director’s viewpoint, Arizona Broadway Theatre’s production of Sweeney Todd in Peoria was totally enjoyed by the entire enthusiastic audience that saw it. They all responded to every musical number with thunderous applause. I most enthusiastically recommend this production, for all adults only! A magnificent show. Get to see it before it closes Nov 9, 2019.

In closing, I say, “goodnight, Vivian, my love.”

Jay

Reviewed: Opening night, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019

When: Now through November 9, 2019

Where: Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 W. Paradise Lane, Peoria AZ, 85382

Tickets: $65 plus, including dinner; $45 plus show only (subject to demand pricing)

Detail: Ticket reservations – for information, call the box office at 623-776-400 or visit AZBroadway.org