I was very excited to attend the rehearsal of KC Productions’ newest theater piece – Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. The director Keith Chamberlain graciously allowed me to watch as our talented local cast strove to bring this very challenging musical to life.
For those of you not familiar with this very dark comedic play, Sweeney Todd is based on a series of anonymously written penny dreadfuls called The String of Pearls, which were later combined into a melodrama by Christopher Bond then turned into a musical by Stephen "Into the Woods" Sondheim. The shocking tale is of a man whose life is destroyed by the corrupt politicians in his town who send him unjustly to a penal colony in Australia in order that they might pursue his very beautiful wife. Todd returns 15 years later and seeks a unique brand of particularly gruesome revenge with the help of a slightly batty baker. Together they descend fully into the madness that wrath and vengeance will bring.
The original production starred Angela Lansbury who had to be persuaded to accept the role by Sondheim himself. Ms. Lansbury’s 1979 manifestation of Mrs. Lovett’s singing style in the manner of a dotty music hall performer established Lovett’s personality for everyone who has come after her. Len Cariou was hand picked by Sondheim as Sweeney Todd.
While others have tried to say Sweeney Todd is an allegory for the limited historic scope of the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the average man, Sondheim himself disagrees and makes the case for a more timeless interpretation: "Sweeney Todd is a man bent on personal revenge, the way we all are in one way or another, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the time he lived in, as far as I'm concerned.”
My own personal view is that Sweeney Todd is intended to be a demonstration of the Confucian aphorism: "If you go to seek vengeance, you should dig two graves."
While NOT for kids, it is a complex classic replete with music very difficult to play or sing. Dissonant, syncopated, halting in melody, woven with multiple counterpoint parts, yet the musicians and singers turn the harshly written lyrics and tunes into catchy mesmerizing songs which capture the essence of the dark torment into which Todd has sunk, including, my favorite, a clever but chilling song called "A Little Priest".
So go see Sweeney Todd October 26 – 29 as the perfect lead up to Halloween. But whatever you do – don’t plan on a shave there and ………. don’t eat the meat pies.
Lara Connolly – Mrs. Lovett
Michael Davis – Sweeney Todd
Curry Burton – Judge Turpin
Ashley Traughber – Joanna
Tyler Brumback – Anthony
Evan Seago – Tobias
Kelly Rowland – beggar woman
Travis Stegall – Beadle
Jeff Johns Pirelli
Caleb Olbrych – Jonas Fog
Haley Cooley – young Lucy
Ensemble: Sarah Broussard, Ryan Byrne, Heather Champagne, Dylan Conley, Kathleen Evans, Steven Fox, Bob Goodson, Joel Jacob, Amy Phillips, Tim Smith, Stacey Solak, Ella Theriot, Gabriel Townsley, Jamie Young
Director – Keith Chamberlain
Piano – Andrew Steiner