Nov 22, 2004

"Sweeney" Unplugged

"I knew it was about people grinding human bodies into meat pies, but I didn't know how gruesome it was."

So said one audience member as we left the New Ambassador Theatre where a cast of a dozen or so had just performed Sondheim's masterpiece Sweeney Todd in a stark chamber music staging. The Brechtian gimmick here, if you can call it that, is that all the actors (save the lead) play the score as well as sing and act it: Mrs. Lovett's on trumpet, Toby and the Judge on flute, the Beadle on bass, Johanna and Anthony on cello, and one woman who plays both Pirelli and Fogg plays a mean accordion. Strange as it sounds, it works astonishingly well, and affirms the work as one of the last century's greats--a standard of the opera repertory and, as this production proves, of the alternative musical theatre as well.

Hear it singing "yes."

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