Friday October 31st 2014

“Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

Many of you know that I am a great admirer of the work of Stephen Sondheim- when it comes to musical theater, he is a genius with a remarkable expression of words set to music. While is has written the music and lyrics of many wonderful musicals, in my opinion, his masterpiece is the musical thriller, “Sweeney Todd,The Demon of Fleet Street”  with a book by Hugh Wheeler ( adapted from the work of Christopher Bond).This is not an easy production to bring to audiences, in that is long for a musical ( about three hours) and is in many ways an American Opera, but under the skillful direction of Rachel Rockwell, the current production on the stage at Drury Lane Oakbrook, may just be the shortest three hours of theater you will ever sit through. In fact, most audience members wanted the story to continue. This is a unique play in that the set itself doesn’t stand out- there is no glitz, just an almost bare stage with a platform that works as the meat pie cafe and the barber shop above and the cast itself and the music become the highlights of this marvelous experience.

Rockwell and her Musical Director, Roberta Duchak, have assembled a sterling cast of players led by the powerful Gregg Edelman as Sweeny Todd and Liz McCartney  as Mrs. Lovett. Sweeney Todd ( his new name) has come back to Fleet Street for one reason, Revenge. He was placed in prison on trumped up charges because the local Judge wanted his wife and daughter. He has had 15 years of hate to plan his revenge and find his wife and daughter. Mrs. Lovett has a dirty little meat pie cafe and above is a barber shop that had been his. What goes on in their shops isunique – both busineses thrive while the plot to gain revenge continues. Todd has only revenge on his mind and because of this, he doesn’t always see what is right in front of his face and so he finds that revenge is not as sweet as he would have thought it to be.

This is a solid production from start to finish with a superior cast of players, names very recognizable in our theater scene; Heidi Kettenring ( always a pleasure to watch in any role),the always reliable  Kevin Gudahl as the nasty Judge Turpin, George Keating as the comical Adolfo Pirelli,George Andrew Wolff as The Beadle,The lovely Emily Rohm as Johanna ( the long lost daughter),William Travis Taylor and a list of the strongest ensembe members we have seen on a local stage. Dare I forget to mention, young Jonah Rawitz as Tobias Ragg. This young man reminds me a lot of young Max Quinlan in his early days and his rendition of “Not While I’m Around” gave me chills. This is a young man destined to have a solid career on the stage.

Most of the songs that make this show what it is are songs integrated into the storyline and are not “stand alone”, but “Johanna”. “Kiss Me”, “Pretty Women” ( not to be confused with the Roy Orbison title) and the aforementioned “Not While I’m Around” have been recorded by true lovers of Sondheim ( Bernadette Peters and Mandy Ptimkin)- the music and lyrics tell a great story and the effects, lighting (Jesse Klug), projections (Mike Tutaj) sound ( Garth Helm) special effects( Patrick Ham) and  costumes by Theresa Ham truly add to the creativity of Kevin Depinet’s simple set. This is a special theatrical experience- a story that will make you laugh as well as cry and will give you something to discuss after the show is long over. You will also have a wonderful memory of the experience you will share with the rest of the audience. I am pretty sure that all the reviewers will give this one high marks and that the Jeff Awards will be announcing ” This Year’s Jeff Award is presented to  Drury Lane”  this year, so if you want to be able to share this experience, you only have  until October 9th to do so- I suggest you get off the couch and order tickets now!

The performance schedule is as follows:

Wednesday and Thursdays at 1:30 p.m.,Thursday evenings at 8 p.m.,Fridays at 8:30 p.m.,Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Tickets range from $35-$46 ( a bargain for a show this powerful) and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 630-530-0111, or online at www.drurylaneoakbrook.com

You can also call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000

There are also dinner/lunch packages available  and student tickets for as little as $20 ( seniors $29) call the box office or vist the website.

Drury Lane Oakbrook is located just north of the shopping center and has plenty of free parking.

This is a must see production, but due to the story, please think about children before bringing them. You know what they can handle!

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