SWEENEY TODD Makes the Cut at Footlighters

by Lisa Panzer

Opening night for Sondheim’s SWEENEY TODD, as directed by Tony Filipone, started out with energy and gusto galore, and kept right on going. Warmed up by the thrilling tones of the orchestra, led by Musical Director, Dolores Ciavola, the cast was on fire, and set the house ablaze with excitement from the prologue through to the epilogue.

Unjustly set up to serve a severe sentence in Australia by the maniacal Judge Turpin (outstandingly played by Allen Puy), who wanted to get his hands on the barber’s wife, Sweeney Todd (Scott Yannick) manages to return to London under an assumed name in order to wreak hair raising revenge. To this end, Todd begins a new barbering business above Mrs. Lovett’s (Alicia Huppman) lousy pie shop, where the two have a meeting of minds. From then on the pie business on Fleet Street is bloody good, but this sanguinary tale of 19th century London continues on to cascade to diabolical depths … SWEENEY TODD first opened on Broadway in 1979, has been performed by opera companies and has also been awarded the Tony Award for Best Musical and Olivier Award for Best New Musical.

Alicia Huppman (Mrs. Lovett) and Scott Yannick (Sweeney Todd) in Footlighters Theater’s SWEENEY TODD. (Photo credit: Phyllis Bastarache)

Cast and company performed cohesively and there were many marvelous moments. Among them, the duet between Lovett and Todd “A Little Priest,” which is both gruesome and comic as written by Sondheim, was outstandingly delivered and received much applause. Alicia Huppman rendered a superb Lovett, in voice, physicality, facial expression and comedic timing. Scott Yannick gave Todd an awesome gruesomeness that was made even scarier when he allowed his character ‘that smile’. The young lovers, Anthony Hope, and Johanna, delightfully sung by Mitchell King and Madison Devlin sang ever so beautifully, especially in the number “Kiss Me”. Throughout the show Barbara M. Bibby brightened the stage as the Beggar Woman, while Beadle Bamford was lent a silvery voice by Chaz Meyers. Jonas Fogg was well played by Kirk Paul and to Adolfo Pirelli, Steven Bergandino gave a dramatic dash. Josh Yanuzzi sings Tobias Ragg with fervor and the enthusiasm infused schtick between Yanuzzi and Rib Klein, who played a townsperson, at the table during second-act number for “God That’s Good”, roused loads of laughter from the audience. High energy reigned during the entire show.

The wonderful live orchestra, featuring Musical Director, Dolores Ciavolo (Piano), Linda Jeffers and Kathy Statler (Violin), Ed Zeiser (Trombone), John Catrino (Trumpet), Emily Newbold (Flute), Ryan Kelly (Drums), and Marianne Smart (Bass), imparted so much depth to show, the music was delight to the ears, and was a pleasingly palpable presence in the house.

Kirk Paul’s cleverly constructed set made the most of the available stage space (no small feat!), and kudos to the crew who did their best to move the pieces around as unobtrusively as possible. Lighting was well executed, however lighting effects could have been a little better towards highlighting the fabulous set, moods of the play, and the talented dedicated actors in various scenes. Costumes and make-up (Alexis Leigh Ross) were spot-on, vivid and varied.

Shave and a hair cut, optional.

Music by Stephen Sondheim
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Based on the 1973 play Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Christopher Bond
Director, Tony Filipone
Musical Director, Dolores Ciavola
October 17 – November 8, 2014
Footlighters Theater
58 Main Avenue
Berwyn, PA 19018-3709
(610) 296-9254


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