Review: Sweeney Todd at ShenanArts

In three words: very well done. I was going to add “for a little theater production”, but I’ll just leave it at that. The principals, Brian Holsopple as Sweeney Todd and Barbara Spilman Lawson as Mrs. Lovett, were particularly strong: I especially liked her expressive eyes in the mad scenes (not that it’s easy to separate these from the other scenes) and his physical dominance (if that’s the word for it). Morgan McDowell, as Anthony, also struck me as particularly strong, though I didn’t much care for his obviously fake sideburns. I’m told the mop of curly black hair is his own. It took me most of the show to figure out who he reminded me of: Michael Jackson in his late years, but with a real nose and not quite so pale. (My date for the evening thinks he looked more like Elijah Wood as Frodo in Lord of the Rings.) Jayne Gallagher, as Johanna, looked perfect for the part — very 19th century hair and dress –, and her singing and acting were also excellent. Like most of the cast, both are still in high school. Everyone else, including the ensemble, was much more than adequate, though one or two of the secondary characters were a little weak in volume or not as perspicuous in pronunciation as I would have liked. The sets were well done, too: low ceilings meant that the second-story barber shop was only about four feet higher than the first-floor pie shop and basement bakeroom, but they managed that well by sliding the fresh bodies in the barber chair off to one side and having them reappear through a trap door in front. (I’m sorry if that’s a ‘spoiler’ for any of my readers.) In sum, well worth the $12 ticket.

There is one more show, today at 3:00pm, so if any of my readers are in the Shenandoah Valley there’s still time to get there. Verona is five miles north of Staunton. ShenanArts’ website is here. I would be there myself, if I didn’t have way too much work with a midnight deadline.

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