LIVE: “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” @ Barrington Stage Co., 6/23/10

Jeff McCarthy and Harriet Harris (photo by Kevin Sprague)

Jeff McCarthy and Harriet Harris (photo by Kevin Sprague)

“Sweeney Todd” is a tantalizing tale of injustice, obsession and all-consuming revenge. It’s about madness, murder and meat-pies.

Yes, it is classic Stephen Sondheim, a wickedly witty night of theater that is Shakespearean in scope and operatic in its complex musicality and richness of emotion.

And the delightfully deranged production on the boards at Barrington Stage Co. in Pittsfield is as sharp as a razor.

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Director Julianne Boyd has brought all of the elements together to deliver a truly first-rate production – an excellent cast (from the leads to the ensemble), a stellar stage set (by designer Wilson Chin) and a solid, eight-piece band (conducted by Darren Cohen).

Jeff McCarthy brings an undeniable power to the title role. And by playing the wronged barber angry and bitter rather than off-his-rocker mad, McCarthy brings out Todd’s humanity, such as it is in such a heinous role.

Tony Award winner Harriet Harris is an absolute delight as Todd’s partner in crime, Mrs. Lovett. Vocally, she’s a bit weak – no match for McCarthy’s powerhouse voice – but she more than makes up for it with spot-on comic timing and a performance that brings intense focus to seemingly every tiniest detail. It is a tour de force performance highlighted by “A Little Priest,” the gleefully perverse duet with McCarthy that brings act one to a soaring conclusion.

Note must also be made of Zachary Clause as Toby, who’s spotlight duet with Harris on “Not While I’m Around” was the musical highlight of the second act.

Sondheim’s music is difficult and complex, chock-full of unexpected melodic turns and artfully interwoven melodies, but both the cast and the orchestra handled it with aplomb, applying the appropriate sensitivity or swagger where required.

All in all, BSC’s “Sweeney Todd” is a thrilling night at the theater with Harriett Harris delivering what’s certain to be one of the most memorable performances of the summer.

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” continues at Barrington Stage Company’s Mainstage in Pittsfield through Saturday, July 17.

Michael Eck’s review in The Times Union
Gail M. Burns’ review at
Larry Murray’s review at
Lesley Ann Beck’s review in Berkshire Living

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