There's no better way to get into the Halloween spirit than watching your classmates murder each other on stage. Not for a fight club, of course, but for the Scotch'n'Soda production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
To start, the singing and acting were wonderful. Matthew Johnson marched through his schemes with a steady glower that illustrated Sweeney Todd's deep resentment and fury. Kate Stargiotti played Mrs. Lovett with a desperate love that made me sympathetic to her plight. Their voices were clear and true, sweeping me along on their journey into a deeper and deeper darkness.
Zofia Majewski sang with a pure sweetness that reminded me of a warbling bird—fitting for Johanna's caged songbird character. Mark Tamvakis' Anthony was innocent and earnest, a second spot of light in an increasingly morbid musical. My disgust towards Judge Turpin was deep and visceral, and I applaud the actor, Julien Buron, even as I wish for the character to burn in hell. Nick Grosso was hilarious as the Beadle in both facial expression and tone of voice, and his slight finger waves towards the audience's yelled suggestions startled a laugh out of me every time. Toby Ragg's intense desire for gin was amusing and his initial innocence was sweet, making Joshua Fried's portrayal of his later madness all the more heartbreaking. Shaelynn Parker's portrayal of Lucy swung between loud rambling and solemn entreaties, a contrast that drove home how far the once-tender mother and wife had fallen. The ensemble was splendid, each actor shining and supporting in turn.
I also want to give special kudos to Quincy Eaton. He shone in the spotlight, performing his lines with all the bombastic showmanship fitting of Adolfo Pirelli. Even after Pirelli’s untimely death, he drew my attention as a background character. He jumped and contorted as a madhouse resident, seemingly embracing the minor character with a wild-eyed determination and adept physical control.
Of course, I can’t place all of the attention on the actors. The musical would’ve faltered or failed without the supreme skill of the musicians. The staging was great as well, moving the characters from scene to scene with quickness and clarity. The set complemented the characters without distracting from them, and I was absolutely delighted when the first dead body fell from the chair and disappeared down an invisible hole. The sound effects were used well, as evidenced by how hard I cringed when I first heard the crunch of the meat grinder. Finally, the lighting was fantastic, from the bright spotlight that followed crooning characters to the red lights that covered the stage floor like pools of blood.
All in all, Scotch’n’Soda’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was a fun and morbid romp through an eccentric plot. All the contributors did a wonderful job, and I applaud their efforts, even if I may never eat a meat pie again.