Stephen Sondheim’s wonderfully macabre Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has had a number of interesting interpretations of late, from the Tony Award-winning reimagining by John Doyle, to the cinematic offering by Tim Burton, with varying degrees of success.
Ray of Light Theatre’s magnificent current treatment eschews any fancy staging or overblown production values and adroitly places the emphasis upon strong acting and skilled vocalizations. The superb cast is certainly up to the task and – for the most part – delivers on both counts, led by outstanding performances by Adam Scott Campbell (Sweeney Todd) and Miss Sheldra (Nellie Lovett), and scene-stealing supporting turns by Michelle Jasso (Beggar Woman) and J. Conrad Frank (Beadle).
Director Ben Randle cuts to the chase and utilizes what would appear — at first blush — to be the acoustic advantage of the smaller environs and opts not to electronically enhance the actors’ voices. It’s a reasonable choice and one worth making given the vicissitudes of sound design at this venue. Of course, it presupposes that all members of the company remember to adequately project.
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Unfortunately, some of the performers do forget there’s a back row. Moreover, the lack of amplification has the unintended and unforeseen consequence of lessening the visceral impact of the musical numbers and some simply fall flat. It’s by no means a fatal flaw, and perhaps more vigorous singing can remedy the problem. But it did serve to undermine what was otherwise an exemplary presentation.
That solitary reservation, however, should not dissuade one from taking a trip soon to the Eureka Theater in San Francisco and experiencing this first-rate production. 4 out of 5 stars.