Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is scary!
And not just because this musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler is about a barber who kills his customers and has his neighbor, Mrs. Lovett, turn them into meat pies.
It's also scary because it's the greatest work of art ever produced, and every time I see it, my heart is in my throat hoping the company doesn't screw it up.
Because, dear reader, some have. Sometimes the cast just isn't up to it. (The score is a lethal obstacle course.) Sometimes the technical end flags. (The scenic requirements are mammoth.) Or — and this is the worst — the director decides that Sweeney Todd needs to be fixed. (A recent local production was so stunningly awful in this regard that I still can't quite believe what I saw.)
So it's with huge relief that I report that Carnegie Mellon Drama sidesteps most of those pitfalls, and turns in a solid and entertaining production.
Director Joe Calarco, being a director, can't help but indulge himself in a needless meta-theater framing device. But that "concept," for the most part, dies away, and when it does pop up, it hardly ever detracts. Calarco keeps the show barreling along — essential for a musical thriller — and is no slouch in creating vivid stage tableau.
Musical director Thomas Douglas and his orchestra deserve a huge hand for handling this massive score; although the tempos might seem slightly slow, the fact that they get through it with such skill and flair is a big plus.
Lucia Roderique does a great job with Lovett and, I think, could have been even better if Calarco weren't so focused on the musical's darkness at the expense of its abundant comedy. Denver Milord sings Sweeney with a gorgeous voice, though it'll take a couple years of life experience to acquire the character's gravitas. Corey Cott's Toby is beautifully sung and fiercely played, with Grey Henson and Noah Plomgren providing flair and plenty of high notes as the Beadle and Pirelli.