Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sweeney Todd at the Lewis Family Playhouse

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pella Posse members Wendy and Jeff kindly got tickets for me and Linda to see Sweeney Todd at famed Pella venue Lewis Family Playhouse in Rrrrancho Cucamonga.

We went to the matinee show, and the theater was quite full.  It's really nice to see that the arts are still being supported by the community, even in these tough economic times.

I had only seen the movie version of this show, and I'm sure that many people in the audience probably had the same exposure to ST as I did.  Linda, though, has known this play for a long time, and this is her favorite Sondheim musical.  

I enjoyed this rendition of Sweeney Todd.  I was told by one of the cast members that different shows have their ways of showing the bloodletting, ranging from red lights to actual liquid being shown on the stage.  This rendition was of the latter.  The special effects were actually quite well done.  The set was mostly comprised of a rotating portion of the stage, which was pushed by different members of the cast.  This rotating portion was Mrs. Lovett's shop on one side, with the inside of her house on another side, and the basement on another side.  The stairs up to the barbershop were on the 4th side.  Since the barbershop is meant to be upstairs, it was actually on top of the cube.  I wondered how all of the people felt sliding down from the chair into the chute.  The oven made me giggle.  I told Linda that it looked like Domo.  It was a big brown box, and the top vents were triangle shaped, and were positioned so they looked like evil eyes.  

The costumes were well done, although the lace penifore under one of the dresses started to unravel during the opening number, and cast members tried to help pick it up or at least try not to trip over it.  I was worried about that for a bit, but they did fine.

The cast did a great job of conveying the difficult music.  They had the advantage of having a live orchestra, wherein many of the performers played different instruments at whatever part of the show they were needed.  I think that live orchestras bring forth much more from the performers, as they can play with the style a little more, and this orchestra did not disappoint me.  

Sweeney Todd was played by John LaLonde.  With his first note, I had no doubt that he could carry this cast.  It was a nice, big, booming voice, and he handled his role quite well.  Linda and I were sitting in the front row, so we could really see the stage makeup on everyone, so it took me awhile to get past the CHEEKBONES that were on his face.  Hmmm...maybe that's the influence from Johnny Depp there.  Or maybe Depp was cast for his cheekbones.  Whatever.  Mr. LaLonde was great throughout, and I really liked the one smile he gave when he finally understood what Mrs. Lovett was talking about when she sang about the disposal of Pirelli's body.

Debbie Prutsman played Mrs. Lovett, and she was a riot.  When I saw that she has also played Mrs. Thenardier from my favorite musical, Les Miserables, I knew that she must have been a perfect fit for that role.  She was outrageous, had a great voice, and I just loved watching her every time she was on stage.

The rest of the cast did a good job, and I liked Jonathan Hawkins' voice.  He played Anthony, and I love the song "Johanna," so I'm glad he did well.  Another standout was Nathan Monks, as Beatle Bamford.  The only voice that I didn't really care for was that of Johanna, played by Jamie Hartmann.  I'm sorry, Jamie.  The voice was too shrill for me, and I wanted to hear the lilting melody of what I call "The Bird Song," but is actually called "Green Finch and Linnet Bird."  I prefer a floating soprano in that part.

My favorite performer, though, was Gary Ablard, who played Pirelli.  I'm biased anyway, because Gary also works at the theater and was the guy that was going to help me with my Pella Goody Bags.  He was very nice to me, and was actually the one that got me excited about seeing this show.  But really, he did a great job.  He was hilarious, his voice was great, and I wished that he could have been on stage longer.  Isn't that one of the big goals of a performer?  Leaving the audience wanting more of you?  He was clearly one of the crowd favorites, so it wasn't just me.  Maybe we're all biased. ;)  I didn't get a chance to talk to him after the show, but hope to see him in June so that I can tell him at that time how much I enjoyed his performance.

Overall, we enjoyed the show, and I was glad that we were able to go, thanks to Wendy and Jeff!
Here's a pic of me outside the theater.  I had never seen this sculpture there before, but I'm thinking of taking one every time we're there, just to show off different Pella outfits.  "Shakespeare, my dear, I taught him how..."  Name that Rockapella song!

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