By Thom deMartino
Within Garden Grove’s famed Gem Theater, a sonorous clamor ascends, as a haunting symphony of lost souls processes across the darkened, indigo-hued stage: enticing the audience, siren-like, to indulge in Stephen Sondheim’s macabre, musical tale of “Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
A dark 19th century tale of blood and revenge, this new production stars David Stoneman as the title character: a once innocent barber, framed by the corrupt and lecherous Judge Turpin (Tom Patrick) so he might seduce and steal the man’s wife. Returning to London years later with a new alias and murder on his mind, “Sweeney Todd” sets up a new barber shop above the establishment of Mrs. Lovett (Beth Hansen,) an unsuccessful meat-pie entrepreneur, who seems to be missing just the right ingredient to perfect her pies. It’s a match made in Hell.
What better time for a such a ghastly tale, as All Hallow’s Eve approaches? While the subject matter may not be appropriate for younger viewers, more mature audiences will appreciate the nuanced performances of Stoneman and Hansen, and revel in the black comedy and interplay between Todd and (the smitten) Lovett.
“It’s tricky,” explains Hansen. “I don’t want the audience just to see my character as comic relief in such a dark show, I want to give it some depth… so, you just kind of walk on the razor blade with this one. I think she’s a lot smarter than other people think she is.”
Yet, it’s more than just a story of vengeance: it’s also the tale of a man trying to salvage the wreckage of his family, as he seeks to recover his daughter Joanna (Bella Gil) from the clutches of the judge, as well as enact his revenge. But the darkness ever overshadows his plan, as Todd spills more and more blood on the path to his objective.
How does the lead feel about such a dark turn of character?
“I raised three step-daughters,” Stoneman remarks with a chuckle, “this demon has been inside me and developing for decades!” His hearty laugh and jovial smile are worlds away from the fearsome gaze and scowl that frame Sweeney’s face throughout his performance.
The production itself is sublime. The powerful melodies of the unseen orchestra are only matched by the strength of the voices they are paired with: not only through the main characters, but through breathtaking vocal ensemble performances as well.
Alex Bodrero, who portrays the comedic rival “King of Barbers,” Pirelli, agrees. “All the ensemble stuff,” he says, “that’s the hardest stuff of the whole show. It’s a huge ensemble show.”
It should be noted, too, that it’s obvious that great effort and rehearsal were put into the choreography and spot-on (pun intended) lighting as well — and it pays off, mesmerizing the viewer, enveloping them, gratefully, within this nightmarish revelry.
Director Damian Lorton has nothing but praise for his cast and crew. “One big thing that we live by is ‘it’s bigger than you:’ to be an actor, you’re always in service; you’re in service to each other, to your audience, and you put that first. You put the show first, you put everything else away — and this cast has just been wonderful about it. It’s a blessing.”
With black comedy, poignant pathos, and a rapturously dark heart, One More Productions’ performance of “Sweeney Todd” at the Gem Theater will take you to explore the most bloody depths of humanity — and you will thank them for it.
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”, David Stoneman, Beth Hansen and Alex Bodrero star in this story of blood, vengeance, and the closest shave this side of Hades. Playing from Sept. 29 through Oct. 23 at the Gem Theater, 12852 Main Street, Garden Grove, CA, 92840. Call 714-741-9550 x221 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for ticketing information. Suggested for mature audiences.
Categories: Arts & Leisure