(Don’t) Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd

Kathy and I went to see the new production of Sweeney Todd. Bleh. Awful.

It was staged in a style I can only describe as Avant Tard.

There was no orchestra – the actors were also the musicians. Clever, right? I guess. But what that means is that every scene has a bunch of people milling around who aren’t really there. People who are having a conversation stand at opposite ends of the stage, both facing out into the audience, but we are to imagine that they are actually standing together facing each other. So if one of them hands something to the other, a third actor (whose character is not “really” there in the scene) takes it from one, walks across the stage, and hands it to the other.

The whole show takes place on a very minimalist set, so props are used over and over. Now this is a coffin, now it’s a table in a bar, now it’s the judge’s bench. Sweeney Todd’s shop is above Mrs. Lovett’s, but the stage is only one level. So there was a ladder that people would go up, to indicate that “now they are upstairs”. Sometimes. Sometimes they just go stand in a different spot on the stage.

The murder scene in the first act was incredibly lame – he holds his razor up, the lights all turn red, and Pirelli gets up out of the chair, walks across the stage and puts on a white coat with blood on it. I’m not kidding. Oh, and for some reason Pirelli is played by a woman (who plays the part as broadly as a birthday party clown).

We both hated it, and we left at intermission.

2 Thumbs Down.

Disclaimer: I can count the number of Broadway shows I’ve seen on one hand (and have a finger or two left over), so maybe I’m just not enough of a “theater person” to appreciate how “clever” it all was. I did like the old production of Sweeney Todd w/Angela Lansbury (saw it on VHS many years ago), and having seen how kick-ass the sets were in that version made this one so much worse.

One Response to “(Don’t) Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd”

  1. Kommissar says:

    You should listen to Billy Joel’s song, “Where’s the Orchestra?” about a guy who is puzzled by the poor quality of production in an off-broadway play. It’s a good song that perfectly captures the depression of being in that situation.