Tremble in your socks, you hairy miscreants, for soon you'll be encased in the sweetest pies in Miami-Dade. Yes, my friends, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has crossed the pond from London Town and is lurking at the Arsht Center in Zoetic Stage's terrific musical “Sweeney Todd.”
Mrs. Lovett is there, too, grinding away at the mincing machine, with Judge Turpin doing the judicial nasty with every breath and Beadle Bamford the syrupy sidekick. Johanna tempts and Anthony Hope lusts and Pirelli struts and the beggar woman collapses at the appropriate moment. Tobias wears his jacket well and Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics), Hugh Wheeler (book) and Christopher Bond on whose adaptation the show is based, should be awfully proud.
Pride may be the deadliest sin, but director Stuart Meltzer should risk eternal damnation with this production. And so should his cast: Aloysius Gigl as Sweeney, Jeni Hacker as Mrs. Lovett, Shannon Nicole Booth as Johanna, Kimberly Doreen Burns as the beggar woman/Pirelli, Henry Gainza as Beadle Bamford, Terry Hardcastle as Judge Turpin, Nate Promkul as Anthony Hope and Kevin Veloz as Toby.
Hal Prince directed the original Broadway production in 1979 and the show has had many iterations since. It's a dark piece...slitting throats and grinding the corpses into pie filling is hardly the thing for the kiddies' night-night, but Zoetic has managed to bring much humor. This is a musical in the best sense: a whole lotta glorious singing by people who can act. So nice.
And more than nice, the accompanying music by Paul Tine, conductor and keyboards; Elena Alamilla, cello; Liubov Ohrimenco, violin; Peter Francis, trumpet; Ryan Hecker, percussion; and Rick Kissinger, clarinet.
Hacker's appearance and demeanor do much to lighten the grim story of revenge for the rape and death of a wife, the stealing of a child and being forced into exile. Every pastry chef should have such inspiration from the impressive Gigl, crazed though he may be by the injustices of Hardcastle's Judge Turpin, whose obsession is the sweet white body of Sweeney's daughter, Johanna, now his ward. Gulp.
“Sweeney Todd” is set in 19th century London and Natalie Tavares' wall of lights and chairs provides the perfect background. Rebecca Montero's lights stun with the vivid scarlet flash as throats are sliced and the orchestra shrieks. Marina Pareja designed the costumes, Dan Mayer the sound, and Jodi Dellaventura the properties.
And oh boy, the pies look delicious.
Zoetic Stage's “Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” plays through April 7 in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami. 305.949.6722 | www.arshtcenter.org