By Samantha Plotner
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is one of Stephen Sondheim’s best-known musicals. It is a difficult show to pull off, not because of any technical challenge, but because of the lofty demands on its actors. The score, for example, requires a great deal of musical ability; a constant challenge in a show where there is almost no spoken dialogue. However, the inherent difficulties of the musical are a gift for the Crown and Scepter Theatre Company (CSTC) because of its talented cast, making the small technical glitches in the production fade away from view.
The CSTC is a new presence in the Columbia theatre community. It was founded by Joseph Rozenshtein (CC ’12/SIPA ’13) and Mitchell Feinberg (SEAS ’13) this semester primarily for the production of Sweeney (Rozenshtein directs and Feinberg is the musical director). Instead of putting on the production in a venue on campus, it is being performed at Symphony Space. Along the way, the production has had its fair share of challenges (if you’ve been near East Campus in the past few weeks, you’ve likely seen them rehearsing outside or in the lounge), making the results even more impressive.
Michael Carter (CC’14) shines as Sweeney Todd, managing to be incredibly creepy while still succeeding in gaining the audience’s sympathy. Shelley Farmer (BC ’14) provides some humor as Mrs. Lovett, while still managing the role’s more dramatic moments. Playing the young lovers Anthony and Johanna, Andrew Wright (CC ’14) and Kyra Bloom (BC ’15), bring some light into the otherwise dark show, particularly in their duet “Kiss Me.” Omar El-Okdah (GSAS ’12), however, steals the show as Judge Turpin, and Sweeney is at its best when Carter and El-Okdah duet in “Pretty Women” and “The Judge’s Return.” The rest of the cast is also full of talent, so the show never has a dull moment.
Rozenshtein and the rest of the production team make full use of Symphony Space’s intimate Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater. At several points during the production the cast enters the seating area, an interesting way to use the venue’s small space, which is taken up largely by a massive platform used as the barber shop. The set and props are minimal, with the notable exception of a massive barber chair that appears in the second act. When it was carried onstage, I couldn’t help but wonder where on earth they had found it.
The production is certainly not perfect. There were a few noticeable technical glitches that can likely be attributed to their limited rehearsal time in Symphony Space. However, Sweeney was still a very enjoyable way to spend an evening, particularly if you have never seen this Sondheim classic.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street will give two more performances at Symphony Space on November 4th at 5:30pm and 9pm. Tickets are $10 + processing fees on the Symphony Space website with the discount code sw20n1y1, and can also be purchased at the box office.
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Samantha is a junior at Barnard and the Editor-in-Chief of The Nine Ways of Knowing. Despite not being involved in student theatre, she has seen more productions on campus than most of the Nine Ways staff.