Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Montgomery Blair High School Sweeney Todd

By • Mar 22nd, 2009 • Category: Cappies

“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” or so it is said. In Montgomery Blair High School’s production of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a grief-stricken barber and his accomplice discover that in their case, vengeance is all the better when served piping hot.

Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street opened on Broadway in 1979, and was nominated for nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Since then, it has been revived numerous times across the world and also turned into a film. The acclaimed musical is undoubtedly one of Sondheim’s most notable works.

Sweeney Todd is, at its most basic level, a story of revenge: after fifteen years of exile in Australia for a crime he did not commit, a barber named Benjamin Barker returns to London under the name Sweeney Todd only to find that his wife is gone and his daughter is in the care of the man who exiled him. He sets out to take his revenge on those who have wronged him, with the assistance of Mrs. Lovett, a widow with a struggling pie business who turns his murderous ways to her advantage.

Robin Dreher had his hands full with the brooding, revenge-crazed Sweeney Todd, but proved to be a formidable actor and vocalist in songs ranging from the reminiscent “Johanna” to the bitter “The Barber and His Wife.” He was able to create a range of emotions for Sweeney, allowing the audience to follow his journey from sorrow to revenge to eventual insanity. Anna Snapp stole the show as Mrs. Lovett, whose infatuation with Sweeney Todd led her to participate in his less-than-moral schemes. Snapp exuded enthusiasm and confidence throughout rousing musical numbers such as “A Little Priest,” but was able to reach inside to find the motherly touch needed for “Not While I’m Around” (a duet with Tyler Fultz as Tobias).

The entire cast shone in “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd,” an oft-reprised musical number that showcased the talent and cohesiveness of Montgomery Blair’s ensemble. Many actors had difficulty maintaining British accents, especially while singing, but Adam Carey provided a consistent, confident performance as Judge Turpin, showing off impressive vocals in songs such as “Pretty Women” (his duet with Dreher). Also enjoyable to watch was Russell Ottalini as famed Italian barber, Adolfo Pirelli; Ottalini transitioned flawlessly from an Italian to Irish accent after Pirelli’s unmasking as Danny O’Higgins.

The orchestra deftly transitioned between some of Sondheim’s most difficult music but sometimes overpowered the actors. In addition, problems with the microphones also contributed to difficulty in understanding some cast members. Although spotlights were sometimes harsh and abrupt, lighting was usually well-suited for the sinister mood of the show.

The set (designed by Joseph Rosen) epitomized the dank and dirty streets of industrial London. Sweeney Todd’s barber shop, which received an appreciative gasp from the audience upon its arrival onstage, revolved to show Mrs. Lovett’s parlor and the back alley. The combination of the inventive, multipurpose sets and the costumed stage crew (responsible for set changes as well as working Sweeney’s infamous barber chair) allowed for quick scene changes.

Complete with breathtaking sets, powerful vocals, and a couple dozen meat pies, Montgomery Blair presented a truly chilling rendition of Sondheim’s masterful Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

by Elisabeth Bloxam of Westfield High School

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