Theater Review: Excellent 'Sweeney Todd' At TBTA

Published: July 16, 2018 at 12:00 am


BROOKFIELD - The Brookfield Theater for the Arts has undertaken a big, bold production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, a musical that fills the theater with an atmosphere of madness and brilliant music. This is a massive undertaking, which TBTA pulls off excellently.

The story of the demon barber of Fleet Street is rife with revenge and evil on all sides. Sweeney, played by Edmound Fitzpatrick, has returned to London aboard a navy vessel after a compassionate sailor named Anthony Hope (played by Stephen Moores) plucked him from the roiling sea. He reconnects with the dispirited meat pie maker Mrs Lovett (Marilyn Olsen), and their system of retribution and repurposing begins, at first with much success.

Sweeney desperately tries to reconnect with his daughter, Johanna (Samantha LaMendola), who has been raised and held by the disturbed and predatory Judge Turpin (Ted Schwartz). There is a collection of other strange misfits in this story, including Tobias Ragg (Dominick Ventrella) and his snake oil salesman boss, Adolpho Pirella (Rob Pawlikowsi); Beadle Bamford (Marty Posner), aide to the judge; and Mr Fogg (Roger Grace), manager of the local mental institution. There are no winners; everyone meets with a tragic end.

Narrating this musical is a gloomy ensemble filled with talent. Included in the chorus are Kylie Block, Brigid Callahan, Pamela DuHuff, Melanie Fay, Lisa Goldberg, Andre Luis Grigorio, Phair Haldin, Matthew MacGregor, Ali Michalek, Tatum Perlman, Leland Schick, and Rigby Wilkinson. They provide an eerie quality that enhances the entire production. Their ranks offer superb vocal skills as well.

Director Craig David Rosen has wrenched some shattering emotions from his cast, in particular Edmound Fitzpatrick's Sweeney, who laments and rages against the forces that have ruined him. Mr Fitzpatrick is towering and commanding in this role.

Ted Schwartz's performance as the perverse Judge Turbin is incredible. His rendition of "Johanna" is excruciating. He brings every ounce of his talent to bear the heaviness of this part and leaves nothing on the mat.

The young couple in love, Stephen Moores and Samantha LaMendola, are as charming as they are anxious while evading the Judge and escaping from various prisons. Mr Moores is wonderfully earnest and in love; he also captures the essence of his lyrics with a melodic voice. Ms LaMendola conveys her character's naiveté and determination well.

A standout performance by Dominick Ventrella as the orphaned street urchin Tobias is deeply moving. He sings like an angel as he reveals his characters devotion. "Not While I'm Around" is magic in his portrayal.

Playing the dream role of Mrs Lovett, Marilyn Olsen is utterly delightful. She gives this character as much sass and vinegar as she can handle. Ms Olsen sings and prances around the stage in this complex piece with a presence and ease that delight and horrify simultaneously. This is a skilled performer, and the end result is a perfectly portrayed Mrs Lovett.

Much praise must be offered to the set designers, Bob Lane and Craig David Rosen. Sweeney Todd has specific and challenging staging requirements, and these were more than met on this small stage. The movement of parts and the use of the seating area were smooth accommodations that worked well.

Costumers Lizzie Varda, Vermilion Novak, and Craig David Rosen put together fabulous costumes that were well tailored and completely convincing.

This production is more than well worth a trip to Brookfield, it is an opportunity to see an excellent performance of a big Broadway musical on a local stage. This is community theater at its very best, with all hands in, creating a musical happening.

Performances continue through July 28, with performances Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 and Sunday afternoons at 2. Tickets are $25 adults, $22.50 for senior citizens, and $20 for students and can be reserved by calling the box office, 203-775-0023, or visiting brookfieldtheatre.org.

The theater is at 184 Whisconier Road (Route 25) in Brookfield Center, behind Brookfield Library.


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