Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is considered one of the greatest—if not the greatest—musicals ever written. This is quite a twist of fate; by most conventional measures, there are few shows that seem less destined for success. When it opened the show was completely unconventional, with a blood-drenched storyline that seemed ready-made to send audience members racing for the exits in horror. It is not surprising that its original Broadway run took a sizable financial hit, and its original London run fared even worse.
Yet the show didn’t die a quiet death after its Broadway closing, but rather jumped from greater to greater success. Over time, audiences adjusted to the idea of a musical in the horror genre, and came to appreciate how boldly Sweeney Todd shattered convention and redefined what a musical could be. After repeated listens, music lovers fell under the spell of the score’s limitless depths and marveled at how Sondheim was able to create and build a sense of relentless tension that lasted through the final chord. Audiences also came to rally behind the deliciously complex characters—characters who are almost devoid of any redeeming value but are just too mesmerizing to stop watching. Plus, there is the greater appreciation for the hilarious moments of dark comedy, which paradoxically release and tighten the underlying tension. We’ve finally caught up to Sweeney Todd’s brilliance.
The show is… well, a perfect musical feast. And from the moment I first saw it (strangely enough, while I was in the seventh grade), I have unabashedly loved it.
Theater Latté Da has just launched a new production of Sweeney Todd, which follows their hugely successful production of Sondheim’s Into the Woods from last season. To be brief, this is a riveting, hands-down fantastic production… easily one of the best I’ve seen. Performances run through October 25 at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis, and you definitely should snap up any ticket you can lay your hands on. Continue reading