Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Swig of Sweeney Todd

If musical thrillers are your cup of tea, Palm Beach Dramaworks' "Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is served up hot, black and acidic. Stephen Sondheim's caustic wit and the killer cast stir up a libation that goes down—unlike Mr. Todd’s straight-edge—easy on the throat.

Photo credit - Palm Beach Daily News

Based on the book by Hugh Wheeler, the show plays through August 5th at the theater's 201 Clematis Street location. Palm Beach Dramaworks offers viewers under 40 the chance to "pay their age" for admission. So if they're 18, then tickets cost $18. No matter what the age, attendees will be disturbingly entertained  as they sip this brew of genius wordplay, gritty Dickensian setting and razor-sharp execution.

After serving an ill-deserved 15-year sentence in Australia, Mr. Todd is propelled on a path of revenge. When he is unable to "do in" the shady judge, Sweeney turns on the London commonfolk.

In the song, "The Barber and His Wife," he justifies his barber-ic shaving methods:

There's a hole in the world
Like a great black pit
And the vermin of the world
Inhabit it
And its morals aren't worth 
What a pig could spit,
And it goes by the name of London.

Sondheim's quasi-dissonant, yet ever-hauntingly beautiful melodies are steeped with commentary on the human condition. Under the direction of Clive Cholerton—and with top-notch actors like Ruthie Stephens (Mrs. Lovett), Shane Tanner (Sweeney Todd) and Paul Louis Lessard (Anthony Hope)—“The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" delivers a strong blend of depravity and dark love.

Come take a hearty gulp of Sweeney Todd at Palm Beach Dramaworks. Like me, however, you might pass on the pie at intermission—or at least eye it suspiciously...

Photo Credit - Palm Beach Illustrated

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