Sweeney Todd the musical is much like Sweeney Todd the character: misunderstood.
The grim circumstances of Sweeney’s story and the musical’s reputation for gore tend to characterize the production for those who aren’t familiar, but rest assured there is much more to be found on Fleet Street.
Soundstage Productions’ Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street debuted at the Penticton Lakeside Resort on Jan. 15, taking on the light-heartedly grim 1979 musical thriller.
The prologue has the cast asking the audience to “attend the tale of Sweeney Todd,” and soon Todd (Pat Brown) emerges as if summoned by the cast.
From the first moment Brown appears as Todd, it’s clear he was an excellent choice for the role. This may be an odd compliment to give, but he embodied the soullessness of the broken man that is Todd. There are moments during the performance where Todd simply stares blankly into the distance like an empty vessel. Brown was perfectly ominous in those moments.
He was also excellent at conveying the opposite end of the emotional spectrum in moments of rage and murderous madness.
A foil to Todd’s sombre demeanour was the vivacious Mrs. Lovett played charismatically by Ashley Surowski.
Surowski stole almost every scene she was in, providing a good share of the laughs and keeping things light hearted even in the midst of troubling subject matter. She also showed off her vocal prowess especially during some of the more technically difficult lyrics.
Speaking of technically difficult songs, there are a lot of them. A tip of my hat to the entire cast for taking on lyrics and music that are so cleverly quick, it takes a few moments to realize a joke was made.
Another notable amongst the rest of the cast was Dustin McGifford, who played the part of Anthony Hope. He showed off an excellent set of pipes and hit some of the harder notes with ease. McGifford was another case of good casting as he also embodied the optimistically naive Anthony precisely.
Young Beamer Wigley rounded out the cast as well, adding excellent young talent to the production.
The costume work and set design were stars in their own right. The costume work was impressive especially in the scenes featuring the entire company, where the extent of the different unique characters and designs was realized in full.
Tickets are still available for performances from Jan. 16-17 at 7 p.m. with an additional matinee on Jan. 17 at 1 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the front desk of the Lakeside or over the phone at 250-493-8221