Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Although it is billed as a concert production, this Sweeney Todd is robustly staged, with an apt and completely functional set design (courtesy of the wonderful Tim Brown) and ideal costumes (designed by Christina Lorraine Bullard). The orchestra, masterfully led by music director Ken Clifton, is prominently positioned onstage, but, otherwise, this is most definitely a solid, full-scale presentation of this work. What's even better is that the cast is filled with Broadway level talent.
Terrence Mann is a towering Sweeney, and he seems to relish his every line and lyric. It almost seems that he was destined to play this role. Singing with a stupendous voice and offering both sly laughs and some outright scary moments, Mann is in complete control throughout and makes for a powerful Sweeney Todd. Liz Larsen is totally on the same level as her costar. She delivers her numbers, particularly "The Worst Pies in London" and "By the Sea," with a good deal of comedic ingenuity, while revealing the love that Lovett harbors for Sweeney. Larsen looks just perfect in the role and her singing and her way with a line are pretty extraordinary.
As the young lovers, Johanna and Anthony, Emilie Kouatchou and Hugh Entrekin are terrific, with Kouatchou shining in "Green Finch and Linnet Bird" and Entrekin equally good singing a beautiful "Johanna." Ed Dixon is everything you could ask for as Judge Turpin, appropriately creepy and imposing, with his duet with Mann, "Pretty Women," a significant highlight. Lu DeJesus is just as fine as the Beadle, in his many scenes with the judge.
In a role that doesn't always stand out, Nicholas Gonzalez is a flamboyantly funny Pirelli, making the most out of his Italian accent and flair for the dramatic. Kenneth Galm is a slightly sad and innocent Tobias, singing "Not While I'm Around" touchingly to Larsen's Mrs. Lovett, though, by the conclusion, he is nearly as haunted and scary as the title character. Not to be forgotten, Andrea Burns does wonders as the Beggar Woman, being able to turn on a dime from a haggard outcast to a sympathetic figure.
Director Peter Flynn does a magnificent job with this production, and mention must be made for the striking lighting design by Alan C. Edwards.
Sweeney Todd at Connecticut Repertory Theatre is a staging that would be completely at home on a New York stage, with the supporting company as strong as the leads. Indeed, Sondheim's stupendous score sounds fabulous as delivered by this cast and orchestra. About the only downside of this Sweeney Todd is how brief its run is, a total of ten performances. If you are able to see one of them, you'll find the treasures to be bountiful.
Sweeney Todd, through July 1, 2018, by Connecticut Repertory Theatre at the University of Connecticut Storrs Campus. For tickets, please visit crt.uconn.edu or call the box office at 860-486-2113.