Review by Chris Payne of Sweeney Todd: Human Race Theatre
The Human Race Theatre Company’s production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at The Loft Theatre made for a wonderful evening of entertainment. First things first, the set was amazing! The Loft Theatre itself is a ¾ thrust stage, allowing guests to sit around three sides of the stage. The brick backdrop gave the appearance of an industrial district in 19th century London. The highlight of Dan Gray’s (Scenic Designer) work on this set, however, was the large turntable that housed a split and raised layout of Sweeney Todd’s barbershop and Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop. The details and mechanics painted a wonderful setting that clearly established the relationship between the two spaces, a crucial element of the story. Additional moving stage pieces further established the bake house and cellar. The entire theatre space was used well to encompass the audience in the performance.
The impressive staging set the bar high and the performances by the entire ensemble didn’t disappoint. Rebecca Watson as Mrs. Lovett was the energetic thread that held the whole show together. Her characterization, accent and vocal performance were all on point and her presence in any scene provided interest and excitement. DJ Plunkett’s portrayal of Tobias Ragg also stood out to me as one of the highlights of the show. The chemistry and relationship between Mrs. Lovett and “Toby” was well developed and especially convincing in their duet, “Not While I’m Around,” which offered a heart-warming moment in an otherwise gritty and dark show.
Jamie Cordes certainly looks the part of Sweeney Todd. His presence on stage always created the perfect amount of intrigue and conflict. I was a little disappointed that he went without a British accent, but his characterization was still strong and convincing. David McDonald played a looming and tortured Judge Turpin to perfection. Aaron Vega was a superb compliment to the domineering Judge as the sleazy Beadle. Kimberly Hessler’s (Johanna) vocal performance was fantastic. Zack Steele was the perfect choice as Anthony Hope and offered a great performance and another through line for entire show.
Scott Stoney’s direction and Tracey Bonner’s choreography blended well and created a fluid and seamless show. The energy of the show was always right where it needed to be. The pace was elevated in numbers like “The Worst Pies in London” (Rebecca Watson) and “Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir” (DJ Plunkett and Ensemble) and appropriately subdued during “Johanna” (Zack Steele) and “Pretty Women” (Jamie Cordes and David McDonald).
This production of Sweeney Todd really hit the mark on every element of the show. The set, staging, choreography, music and performance were each executed well and combined for a stellar performance. Personally, this was my first time at The Loft Theatre and my first experience at a Human Race Theatre production and I have to say I am very much looking forward to their next show.
The Human Race Theatre Company’s production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at The Loft Theatre runs through October 2. For more information and tickets, visit humanracetheatre.org.