My Friends

Arrow Up

Arrow Up
Arrow Down
,
  • Sat
    25
  • Sun
    26
  • Mon
    27
  • Tue
    28
  • Wed
    29
  • Thu
    30
  • Fri
    31
Wacky Wonky Walk & Kids Festival Oct 25, 2014 A walk and festival featuring a Willy Wonka theme, games and activities everywhere. There will also be Phil's BBQ available for purchase and proceeds benefit the San Diego Center for Children. 88 other events on Saturday, October 25
 
Film
Adaptation of Patricia Highsmith novel tops our coverage of movies screening around town
Theater
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s musical leads our rundown of local plays
Theater
A review of Cygnet Theatre’s production of Sam Shepard drama tops our coverage of local plays
News
City’s contract tweaks both tighten and loosen requirements
Editorial
From San Diego City Council and Congress to Secretary of State and all the proposition, we have your ballot covered

 

 
Log in to use your Facebook account with
San Diego CityBeat

Login With Facebook Account

Recent Activity on San Diego CityBeat
 
Home / Articles / Arts / Theater /  Eat this!
. . . .
Tuesday, Apr 06, 2010

Eat this!

With Cygnet's Sweeney Todd, San Diego is the theater capital of the universe

By Martin Jones Westlin

Judge Turpin (Steve Gunderson) is about to get more than a haircut from deranged barber Sweeny Todd (Sean Murray).

As I watched Cygnet Theatre Company’s Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, I was reminded why I didn’t much like the 2007 film version. Johnny Depp made a decent scoundrel, and Helena Bonham Carter was terrific, but all that blood and gore on the screen trivialized the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical from 1979. Slasher movies are a dime a dozen, and filching from the cinema’s mother medium can’t mask the genre’s humdrum look and feel.

No, the theater is Sweeney Todd‘s only rightful home. If you’ve seen the Cygnet entry, you know damn well why. All that unsettling, primal music; all those stop-and-go people parades; all those bells; all those whistles; all that plaintive hue and cry; all those superb character traits and castings to type; all those unbelievable costumes and lights and that scowling set; all those full-throated under-stories; and thus all that potential for problems: This unspeakably splendid show gets past the latter through its unrelenting self-esteem and an unbreakable bond with the audience that only live performance can create. It positively seethes amid its jet-black (and sometimes riotously funny) portrayal of our darker selves. In the process, it’s become a marker for theater’s place in this community. And it will remain so for many, many seasons to come.

Todd (co-director Sean Murray) is a 19th-century London barber gone mad and bent on revenge—15 years earlier, dastardly Judge Turpin (Steve Gunderson) exiled him on trumped-up charges and raped his wife, eventually driving her insane. Todd’s made it back to London, and his customers (including the judge) now have a way of disappearing under the weight of his straight razor. Their remains are consigned to the bake oven of the cackling, amorous Mrs. Lovett (Deborah Gilmour Smyth); subsequently, her meat-pie sales are off the charts (so much for the theory that humans don’t taste very good).

The tragic climax is loopy with twists and turns—and there stands each member of this stellar cast at every one, bathed in an incomparable culture of ensemble. Murray and Smyth are peerless as Todd and Lovett, he of the evil countenance and she of the grasping, wheedling fingers. Meanwhile, co-director James Vasquez has masterfully fleshed out the characters’ lives, melding concept with real life at every turn (even the lowly beggar woman lives and breathes through a healthy dose of promiscuity, her greatest asset).

Right after the show’s opening, I predicted the run would be extended by two weekends. Less than 48 hours later, I got an e-mail announcing exactly that plan—and I couldn’t have been less surprised. This entry is probably the finest production of a non-cabaret musical I’ve seen in my 16 years of theater commentary; it’s also the standard by which all future Cygnet entries will be judged. Amid its abject magnificence, San Diego is the live performance capital of the universe right now. And, man, does that feel good. What a show!

This review is based on the opening-night performance of March 27. Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street runs through May 9 at The Old Town Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St. in Old Town. $27-$46. www.cygnettheatre.com. Write to marty@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.




 
 
 
 
 
 
Close
Close
Close