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Tell The Tale of Sweeney Todd

Sweeney solo with blades.

Actor David St. Louis as Sweeney Todd (PHOTO CREDIT: Jon Gardiner).

“…The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” wails a corralled cast of characters to the crowd, breaking from the performance at various points. The haunting melody describes a murderous barber and his quest for vengeance, all the whilst compiling a body count of those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the barber’s chair of Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Set in 19th Century London, England, Sweeney (as portrayed by Broadway veteran David St. Louis) is a dark and imposing figure whose thunderous dialogue and precise efficiency with his barber’s blade soon entices all the townsfolk to come forth and bear witness to his skill. Single-minded in taking revenge on the corrupt Judge Turpin (longtime PlayMakers Company member, actor Ray Dooley) for his wrongful imprisonment some 15 years earlier, he is assisted by talkative restaurateur, Mrs. Lovett (actor Annie Golden of Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black” fame). While complimenting his amorality, her cheerful disposition serves as a stark contrast to Todd’s own morose nature. Together the two engage in a partnership of deceit and destruction, luring in accomplices of Judge Turpin and those who become suspect of the duo’s dark deeds. Upon meeting with Sweeney Todd, they are condemned to death and later become the “meat” ingredient of meat pies, the business front of Mrs. Lovett’s as a pie maker.

Amidst a field of stellar depictions, a few luminaries shine through. Rival barber/dentist Adolfo Pirelli is played to the peak of pompous perfection by actor Brian Owen, serenading the audience with an accounting his own embellished prowess during a professional competition with Sweeney and later in an attempt at blackmail once he is upstaged and outed as a fraud in public. Introduced as little more than an errand boy for Pirelli before later becoming a surrogate son of sorts to Mrs. Lovett, actor Max Bitar embodies Tobias Ragg’s seamless transition from dandy sycophant to emotionally dependent ward, embodying a desire to both be validated by an older figure and to live in service of a greater principle.

Pirelli demonstrating dentistry on Ragg.

Adolfo Pirelli performing a dentistry service on his assistant, Tobias Ragg (PHOTO CREDIT: Jon Gardiner).

“Sweeney Todd” is based on the 1973 play by British dramatist Christopher Bond and made its Broadway debut on March 1, 1979. This original production won 8 awards at the 1979 edition of The Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Most recently, the play was seen on the big screen in the 2007 film adaptation directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp in the titular role.

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is directed by Jen Wineman (in her PlayMakers debut) with music and lyrics provided by Stephen Sondheim. The production is on stage in the Paul Green Theater at the UNC Center for Dramatic Art now through April 23. Tickets are available online at www.playmakersrep.org. You may also contact the box office directly at 919-962-7529. UNC Chapel Hill students can attend the show for a discounted price of $10, $12 for other college students, with discounts for UNC faculty & staff and military personnel.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Lamarr Fowlkes is a Raleigh/Chapel Hill based contributing writer for Triangle Arts and Entertainment and a Promotions Assistant for LiveNation Entertainment. A former UNC-Asheville Bulldog and UNC Tar Heel, descendant of dual Welsh and Nigerian ancestry and noted hockey enthusiast, Lamarr will continue to provide art and entertainment coverage for the Triangle area while simultaneously expanding his reach to the remainder of the Carolinas. To read more of Lamarr’s posts for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/lamarr-fowlkes

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