I didn’t expect the FAC to have such a sweet theater. Allow me to gush: it’s the perfect size. Not so flat that they’re tempted to rely on tricks like doing theater in the round (annoying), not so small that they can’t sell enough tickets to pay for professionals. Not so big that you can’t see.
I went with Ann and Larry and Doug and Lauren; Ann had managed to snag us front-row seats, the minx.
I haven’t seen Sweeney Todd before, either as a play or as the movie; somehow, the movie just never appealed. I saw a trailer and said, “Nah.” Now I know that Tim Burton was not the guy to direct Sweeney Todd. Not everything is meant to be goth. Like the Marilyn Manson version of “Sweet Dreams.” The Eurhythmics version is ironic, because it’s this song about the dirty ways of the world sung by someone with the voice of an angel: the opposite of what you expect – thus – ironic. Marilyn Manson is just singing a song. If there’s any irony, it’s that Marilyn Manson doesn’t seem to get that he’s a hell of a lot less cosmopolitan than Annie Lennox.
As far as I can tell, the director (Alan Osburn, who also played Sweeney Todd, I see), teased out so much irony an Eighties hair band would be jealous.
The set was versatile and impressive without being overly clever, that is, without getting in the way of the play. I was happy with the way the same grungy, brick-heavy decor was used for all the characters, from high to low. (Even the set brought out irony.)
The lighting and sound equipment had issues; as Ann noted, either the actors couldn’t hit their marks or the lights were off. The sound system started going on the fritz toward the end of the first act. Good! I wish they’d just turned it off. If the actors couldn’t have projected to fill that theater, they shouldn’t have been acting professionally on stage. The echoes from the sound system made some of the lines/lyrics sound garbled.
Mrs. Lovett was the star of the show, coming across as Eddie Izzard in ginger curls. Toby was a close second, even though he sounded like Spongebob Squarepants (I am not sure that wasn’t intentional). Poor Mr. T was a distant third, struggling to handle the low range at times, but of an eloquent normality that made the rest of the show fall into place: Sweeney Todd was just some guy, you know? The ingenues were ingenues. The beggar woman was also especially good. No shame at all, that woman.
With most black comedies about the way of the world, the end of the story leaves you exhausted, depressed, and swearing never to cross paths with the story again (Boogie Nights, Dangerous Liaisons). Not so here. This is built more like a Shakespearean tragedy, with the inevitable and shocking coming to a gleeful climax.
I really need to track down the version with Angela Lansbury.