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Sweeney Todd at Signature Theatre

Sweeney Todd
Signature Theatre
4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, VA
February 9 – April 4, 2010
Buy Tickets

My husband and I saw this show on Thursday night, the 11th, and thoroughly enjoyed it. We’d decided to go because we’d enjoyed the movie and knew the play would be longer, fuller, and better. And indeed, it was. Staged in a black box-style setting with sparse but deliciously detailed sets, we were absorbed in the ambiance of the show even before the lights went out: smoke machines, blood dripping into buckets, randomly dimming light fixtures, and assorted noises set the mood. The play started all at once, and instantly we were pulled into the action of this crazy musical horror-comedy.

The cast, over all, was just great. The ensemble was very tight, though sometimes they were singing so quickly I couldn’t understand them. Sweeney Todd himself (Edward Gero) had some of the best facial expressions, adding humor and depth to character. This was when I was especially glad for the intimate setting, because I was able to actually see his face more often than not. Mrs. Lovett (Sherri L. Edelen) was simply a delight. I was introduced to this character via Helena Bonham Carter, whose singing voice in that role, er, leaves a bit to be desired. Edelen was able to balance the ridiculous accent, the droll inflection, and the crude mannerisms with a striking voice that was both funny and pleasant to hear.

Now, while I feel Tobias Ragg (Sam Ludwig) did a marvelous job and has a beautiful voice, he was simply too old to play the character. Toby is supposed to be, at the very most, a teenager, but the fellow playing him was clearly well into his 20s. This is no fault of the actor’s, to be sure, but it did distract from the realism a little bit. The other youngish male lead, Anthony (Gregory Maheu), looked distractingly like Jude Law. This says nothing about his performance, which was fine, but it’s all I really have to say about him.

The villains were fun: I actually preferred Chris Van Cleave’s Judge Turpin over Alan Rickman’s (and I love me some Rickman, so that’s saying something), and Beadle (Chris Sizemore) repeatedly cracked me up with his falsetto shenanigans. Saving the best for last, Johanna (Erin Driscoll) was absolutely lovely. Many of the notes she had to sing were incredibly high, but she nailed every one solidly and beautifully.

All in all, a wonderful show. Go see it if you can!

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