Stephen King never wrote a musical.
Probably because he can’t one-up Sweeney Todd—The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’s ability to simultaneously sicken, entertain and enthrall, as the Drury Lane Theatre’s current offering of the Stephen Sondheim classic does.
An all-star ensemble cast near-flawlessly performs the stunning Sondheim score, led by Chicago native Gregg Edelman as Todd and the effusive Liz McCartney as Mrs. Lovett. Both are superbly cast, with Edelman’s effortless melancholy outwardly supporting McCartney’s boisterous shenanigans while always letting the audience know his character’s eye is on the ultimate prize—revenge.
Outstanding performances from William Travis Taylor as Anthony Hope and Emily Rohm as Johanna marvelously sell the love story backdrop to the Todd/Lovett murder factory/cannibal meat pie shop. Indeed this pair’s vocals are show stopping.
Kevin Gudahl as Judge Turpin and his comic foil The Beadle, played by George Anbdrew Wolff, are equally talented and perfectly cast. This starting lineup is well-supported with a deep bench who, together, spin the tale of murder, corruption, revenge and, ultimately, mistaken identity and anguish.
Todd is a dark story originally penned in the mid-1800s (The String of Pearls), brought to the stage as a play by Christopher Bond in 1973, to Broadway by Sondheim in 1979 and to the big screen in screen in 2007, starring Johnny Depp. You can read the synopsis here.
Drury Lane’s version is directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell, who also directed the theatre’s Joseph Jefferson-decorated Ragtime last year. She does well to let a simple set depicting Fleet Street serve as a drab backdrop on which Sondheim’s bodacious, vibrant lyrics are painted.
The price the audience pays for the composer’s brilliance is that the lyrics come quickly—particularly in the ensemble numbers. Advice to the wise is to listen to the cast recording before attending, particularly if not familiar with this score.
Then sit back and prepare to be simultaneously sickened, entertained and enthralled.
Sweeney Todd—The Demon Barber of Fleet Street runs through October 9 at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, less than a 1-hour drive from all North Shore suburbs. Parking is complementary. Information and individual tickets are available online at www.drurylaneoakbrook.com or by phone (630) 530-0111.
About the author: Barry Reszel is a Libertyville-based writer, at-home dad and executive director of the not-for-profit entertainment company Liberty Town Productions. www.libertytownproductions.com