Monday, February 22, 2016

review - SWEENEY TODD: School Edition - Actor's Youth Theatre

Macy Wood and Dale Mortensen
Photo by Lisa Webb / Southwest Shots Photography
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through February 27th.

 "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is beloved by many and considered to be one of Stephen Sondheim's masterpieces. However, when you hear that a youth theatre company is presenting this show it might seem a bit strange, especially since it features a murderous barber who seeks revenge and kills those who get in his way. However, the themes of injustice and human suffering and the fact that Sondheim himself was involved in the revised "school edition" of his work, which tones down the sexual references and allows the use of less gruesome visuals, all add up to an experience that provides younger actors the chance to perform, and their audiences to experience, a more sophisticated and challenging show than most usual youth theatre offerings. Actor's Youth Theatre's production of this classic musical has a talented cast and is a visceral, aural and macabre treat....Any concerns over the nature of the story being too adult for a youth theatre company are assuaged by the fact that Sondheim has eliminated a few words of profanity as well as one song that is more adult and a couple of smaller musical moments...Sondheim's powerful score can be a challenge even for professional theatre companies so it's understandable that a youth theatre company may encounter some difficulties with the music. While the majority of the cast maneuver their way through the score with relative ease, there are a few brief moments in which notes are flat or sharp, high notes aren't attempted, or they are not held as long as they should be. But, for the most part, AYT's cast does well with one of Sondheim's most difficult scores. The leads are pretty stellar. Brooding, pondering, and always deep in thought, Dale Mortensen doesn't make one false move as Sweeney. He instills the role with a calculated obsession, along with a furious sense of menace. Macy Wood is equally good as Mrs. Lovett. ...Their voices do well with their many solos and duets and their act one performance of "A Little Priest" is exceptionally well acted and sung....Director Zach Diepstraten does well with the challenging material. His decision to have Sweeney pull a red scarf from a victim's neck with his razor, instead of using blood to signify the many murders in the show, is a perfect solution to adapt the show for a younger audience yet still stay true to the original intentions of the material...Musical director Karli Kemper gets lovely sounds from the cast, with very few errors made in the timing and phrasing of the difficult material, and choreographer Josh Lindblom's steps, including a fun waltz during "A Little Priest," work well without overpowering the show. ..Sweeney Todd is macabre and intensely dramatic yet also extremely rewarding in the way that Sondheim's sophisticated score combines rich ballads and creatively written lyrics that are laced with black comedy to tell the story of a madman. The Actor's Youth Theatre production shows that challenging material can be delivered, and delivered well, when you have the right cast and the right creative team steering them in the right direction, while challenging themselves and their audiences."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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