WEATHER »
Heather Ayers, David Studwell in Ensemble Theatre Company’s production of <em>Sweeney Todd</em>.

David Bazemore

Heather Ayers, David Studwell in Ensemble Theatre Company’s production of Sweeney Todd.


‘Sweeney Todd’ at Ensemble Theatre Company

Ayers, Studwell Star in a Thrilling ‘Sweeney Todd’


From the moment one lays eyes on Brian Bembridge’s masterful unit set for Ensemble Theatre Company’s terrific new production of Sweeney Todd, it’s clear that something special is about to happen. In director Jonathan Fox’s intimate interpretation, Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece of the macabre gains in intensity without losing any of the power more typically associated with grander spectacles. The ten performers onstage and the five piece band cunningly hidden beneath their feet combine to create an expert realization of the complex score and the darkly humorous script. Before the night is over, viewers are thoroughly immersed in this underworld where Sweeney moves beyond good and evil. Well, OK, maybe not beyond evil.

With his excellent voice and clear understanding of the character, David Studwell makes a great Sweeney. His love song to the razors he left behind is particularly chilling. When he announces that ‘my arm is complete again’ when he holds the shining blade, you just know that he’s thinking about doing more than just shaving someone. Heather Ayers sings beautifully as well, and balances neatly on the line between comedy and horror in her performance as the nasty baker Mrs. Lovett. Yet the real excitement generated by this talented pair of leads comes when they support and react to the other fine performances that surround them. Ayers, for example, is splendid in her scenes with Chris Kauffmann, who plays Tobias, the innocent young assistant to rival barber and initial victim, the mountebank Pirelli (Justin Cowden).

Norman Large gives Judge Turpin the right leering insidiousness, and Craig McEldowney nails the role of Beadle Bamford. Michaelia Leigh and Karole Foreman, as Johanna and the Beggar Woman respectively, both find new ways to bring life to these crucial roles. Ultimately, the real star of any good production of Sweeney Todd is the music itself, and musical director Matthew R. Meckes has done a remarkable job of preparing the cast and band for this highly challenging material. In the end, one is left to contemplate not only the evil of a serial killer, but also the great beauty of Sondheim’s vision as a composer. What an achievement this show is, to have reimagined the Broadway musical so thoroughly, and yet to have adhered so closely to its underlying form.

To submit a comment on this article, email letters@independent.com or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email tips@independent.com.



Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Jon Peterson Departs Habitat for Humanity

Takes a post with Covenant Trust Company of Chicago.

Montecito Pushes Back on Streamlined Rebuild Process

Not so fast with fast-track rebuilding, leaders tell the county

St. George Files Suit Against Gelb for Unpaid Debt

Pair of Isla Vista landlords in legal tussle over property sales costs.

Thousands of Plaintiffs Added to Refugio Oil Spill Case

Litigation follows footsteps of 1969 Union Oil spill attorneys.

Push Comes to Shove Between Law Enforcement and Mental Health

County supervisors confront too many needs with not enough money.