This past week, Washington D.C. and all the nightly performance art offerings were canceled or rescheduled because of Snowmageddon 2010. Signature Theater’s February 9th preview of “Sweeney Todd” was no exception. This Valentine’s weekend served as the opening weekend for the run, and what better way to spend the lover’s holiday than with your sweetie and a couple of Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies?
This was my first time to Signature Theater since moving to the D.C. area this past July. I also brought along some theater loving friends of mine who also just moved here this weekend. All of us Signature Theater “newbies”; all of us without a clue as what to expect. Having experienced Angela Lansbury in the role of Mrs. Lovett, the expectations were needless to say, high.
Staged this season in Signature’s Max theater, the environment was intimate yet with a cool, dark and industrial style. From the initial screeching chords and flash of light, I was devilishly intrigued. Sherri L Edelen as Mrs. Lovett brought a sinister humor coupled with motherly charm that had me laughing out loud and feeling the pain of her internal struggle. Pair her acting ability with her extraordinary musicianship, and she easily, in my opinion, stole the show. Accomplished Shakespearian actor Edward Gero played Sweeney Todd, and although he met a couple high notes on the flat side, he more than made up for it with his fanatical energy and command of the stage.
Other notables included Sam Ludwig as the lost yet innocent boy Tobias Rag, Chris Van Cleave as the sinister Judge Turpin, and Erin Driscoll as the sweet and songbird-like, Johanna.
Overall, the entire ensemble was strong, both in presence and musicality. They sounded well blended and obviously ate their Wheaties while snowed in this past week, because vocally strenuous Sondheim cluster chords sounded as wonderfully dissonnant as ever. Think you know this musical? I can assure you there are some surprises in this one that will have you jumping more than once.
Kudos to director Eric Shaeffer and scenic designer James Kronzer for a brilliant vision and use of space.
Sweeney Todd runs now through April 4, 2010 at Signature Theater.