By Barry Reszel
Musical theatre aficionados really don’t know Stephen Sondheim‘s macabre masterpiece, Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street until…
…they experience the terror from a perch smack dab in the middle of Fleet Street or in the waiting line for one of Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies (sans a Waitress-like theatrical aroma, thank God);
…they see the playful chemistry of a younger Mrs. Lovett, played to perfection by Jacqueline Jones, and splendid opera star Phillip Torre as Todd, both of whom sing the daylights out of what some call the perfect musical theatre score;
…they view the pale, somber makeup artistry teaming with Bill Morey‘s costumes, highlighted by James Kolditz‘s superb lighting;
…they experience Ben Lipinski‘s set design featuring entrances and exits from every possible nook and cranny of the single-most charmingly intimate theatre space in Chicagoland;
…they feel Megan Elk as the Beggar Lady crouching a little too close for comfort at their feet, remaining perfectly, eerily in character as she awaits her next entrance;
…they take in the disquieting presence of Frankie Leo Bennett as an impish man-child in a portrayal of the Pirelli/Todd protégé Toby that ultimately (rightly) creates lingering nightmares;
…they listen to Cecilia Iole as Johanna, Nathan Carroll as Anthony and the work of a magical musical quartet…and want to hear more, always more;
…they laugh at Kevin Webb‘s uniquely glorious depiction of Beadle and John B. Leen’s of the Judge, with the sad realization that these two characters are likely next week’s Trump cabinet members;
…they pause to reflect on how this typically large-scale musical is made so much more terrifyingly better by the mission of Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre and its magician-creators Fred Anzevino (Director), Courtney Crouse (Assistant Director), Jeremy Ramey (Music Director), James Beaudry (Choreographer) and Mina Slater (Production Stage Manager).
Those who do not know the story and production history of Sweeney Todd may read about it here.
“Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is the last full-scale production for Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre at the No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Avenue, Chicago. It runs through May 20; more information and tickets are available here. The company plans a move to a new theatre on Howard Street in Evanston this fall.