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REVIEW: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

by Steve Desroches

Provincetown Theater’s production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a hypnotic, macabre ballet presenting the Stephen Sondheim musical with such grace and acumen they make this grotesque horror story absolutely irresistible. So much of good theater is in the details, and director David Drake makes impeccable choices in bringing this masterwork to town in celebration of the musical’s 40th anniversary. Since he took the helm as artistic director, the Provincetown Theater has had one hit after another, and its becoming clearer why. Each production is a celebration of the assembled talent and is imbued with the spirit of collaboration to bring out the best in everyone. That’s where the joy comes from, even in this devilish tale of murder, cannibalism, and feverish revenge.

The tale of Sweeney Todd dates back to the penny dreadfuls of the Victorian era in England, those pre-cursors to comic books that told dark tales of mayhem and mischief. It is of course Sondheim who created the most memorable incarnation of this story of the razor-blade-wielding barber who, after he was unjustly sentenced to life in the penal colony of Botany Bay, returns home to London to reunite with his wife and daughter only to find the crooked judge who cast his fate has adopted his child and is responsible for the tragic story of his beloved bride. His blood lust grows as his misanthropy spreads like a cancer. He opens his new barbershop right above the sad pie shop of Mrs. Lovett, who sniffs out an odious idea for a secret ingredient in her culinary creations, counting on that, indeed, no one wants to know how the sausage is made. The murderous duo is played with perfection by Tony Award nominee Tom Hewitt and Trish LaRose, who teeter totter between real terror and comic relief in this tale of delicious madness.

The spectacular set by Ellen Rousseau and the choreography of the Greek chorus portraying the miserable inhabitants of 18th-century London add the thrilling chills of a haunted house communicating the Darwinian desperation of life in the city. All of that engulfs the audience immediately. Megan Amorese shines as the Beggar Woman, a character that subtly pulls the narrative along as ultimately the tale’s moral conscience. Madison Mayer as Johanna, Eric McNaughton as Judge Turpin, Christopher Sidoli as Pirelli, John Strumwasser as Beadle Bamford, Thomas Cover as Tobias Ragg, and Sean Potter as Anthony Hope all sparkle in the grit of the gorgeous soot of this production with McNaughton, Sidoli, and Cover as particular stand-outs. But the accolades go to the entire production, cast and crew, as nothing this well done can rest on the work of one. This is a marvelously entertaining trip to the dark fantastic and should not be missed.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street plays at the Provincetown Theater, 238 Bradford St., Monday through Thursday at 7 p.m. through August 29. Tickets ($50 general/$75 premium – $45 for students and seniors) are available at the box office and online at For more information call 508.487.7487.

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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