'Sweeney Todd' at Reduxion Theatre
Reduxion Theatre Company presents “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” to chill us, to thrill us and possibly to kill us this 2014 season of ghouls, goblins and elections. The play is a musical spellbinder with the music of Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler. “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is an adaptation by Christopher Bond based on many stories from the 1800s. It is one of the most enduring urban legends, and it remains as shocking as the original. The story concerns a young barber (barbers also often served as surgeons) who is called away to serve in the Napoleonic Wars and is only able to return after an absence of 15 years. His wife has disappeared, his home is empty, and his neighbors are all gone; he begins a slow descent into madness and evil. He encounters Mrs. Nellie Lovett, a pie maker who befriends him, and together they seek vengeance on the man responsible for Sweeney Todd’s losses. Ultimately Todd murders every customer with a slice to the throat and slides their bodies down to the basement where the Mrs. Lovett disposes of the remains in her delicious pies.
This is actually two urban legends together: the first, never trust the mystery meat in the pies sold by street vendors as well; the second, never trust a barber with a razor and box of leeches. Sweeney Todd descends into the hell of evil and no one can say whether evil leads him into madness or madness leads to evil. We still don’t know, and occasionally one still finds a European butcher shop with rabbit on display. The bit of fluffy tail attached to the carcass is proof that one is not being suckered with kitten.
Sweeney Todd is played by W. Jerome Stevenson. Stevenson gives Todd charm and dedication but his eyes slowly begin to deaden with no soul behind them. The performance is outstanding; one realizes that this madness may be a cautionary tale. Mrs. Nellie Lovett is portrayed by Elin Bhaird. Bhaird shows us a woman with expertise in flaky crusts, but unfortunately flaky in ingredients, and delightfully flaky in character. The Beggar Woman is Gwendolyn Evans. She makes her presence felt, yet she is virtually invisible to the other characters. It is a difficult role and Evans handles it beautifully. Tobias Ragg, the young assistant, is skillfully played by Ryan Blagg and Terry Runnels is very skillful as Judge Turpin, the judge one would never wish to adjudicate one’s own case. Adolfo Pirelli is played by Charlie Monnot, Anthony Hope is played by Andrew Zapata, and Matt Barger plays The Beadle. Kylie Groom is perfect as Johanna Barker. The entire cast including the ensemble is perfect for “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” in all aspects.
Clearly Matthew Sipress is the ideal director for this show. The Reduxion Theatre has a small intimate space and Sipress is able to move his cast about the stage comfortably. This is a great send off for 2014. Integrity of purpose, character and interpretation are profound. And in so doing, Reduxion Theatre gives us a show that delivers comedy without comical strategy, tragedy without tentativeness, song with sorrow, realistic reactions in unrealistic situations and horror with honor. This requires a group of performers who love their craft and approach their audience with the same respect they afford their characters, in short, they have integrity.
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” shows at Reduxion through November 15th 2014. Reduxion Theatre is located in Automobile Alley, 914 North Broadway Avenue in Oklahoma City. For ticket information visit reduxiontheatre.com or call 405-604-4730.