Broadway’s production of ‘Sweeney Todd’ drags on

On Wednesday, Nov. 1, The Center for Student Involvement’s Roadrunner Central sponsored its third Broadway trip of the semester to the highly praised “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” revival starring Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford.

The show last graced the stages of Broadway in 1979 with Len Cariou as Sweeney Todd and Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett. It had a successful run, winning eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

The current revival has received stellar reviews, with eight Tony Award nominations and two wins this past season. I was excited to finally see for myself if this show truly lived up to all of the hype surrounding it. Spoiler alert: I’m not so sure.

On our trip over to the theater we found out via social media that Mr. Todd himself, aka Groban, had caught the flu and would be out of the show that same day, which of course saddened me and my friends who had been looking forward to seeing his performance live. But no fear, Groban’s standby Nicholas Christopher would be covering the role that evening, and another spoiler, he was amazing.

While some scenes felt too long and accents were too tricky to understand, the performers in this show truly made it stand out.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Once we got to the city, we had about 90 minutes to explore, venture off, find food, take pictures, etc, until show time. “Sweeney Todd” performs in the Lunt Fontanne Theatre. The theater was beautiful, from the stunning exterior, complete with posters and a marquee, to the lush interior with drink stations and merchandise tables.

Once we arrived at our seats we could further take in the atmosphere, it was an ample space but felt compact. The stage was beautiful, with bits of the set peeking into eyesight and fog to add to the eeriness.

The show began with “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” which pulled audience members into the action. “Sweeney Todd” is one of Stephen Sondheim’s most famous shows. He was credited with being the show’s composer and lyricist. While some of the text and lyrics dragged a bit, I appreciated that it felt very uniform, with the same score repeating throughout the show.

As I foreshadowed earlier, Christopher was wonderful in the role of Todd. He brought some real emotion and anger to the part that I wasn’t expecting. Additionally, Ashford was spectacular as Mrs. Lovett, she was hysterical and reminded me so much of Helena Boham Carter in Tim Burton’s film adaptation of the same show.

My only critique of Ashford’s performance was her accent. It was a sort of British cockney accent that was sometimes quite difficult to understand. Additionally, if I hadn’t known the storyline going in, I may not have fully understood the premise due to her accent.

While this is a revival with a lot of previous source material, I felt it did drag on a bit. The show clocked in at 165 minutes, which is quite long for a musical, so at some points, I wondered if they could have cut down some of the material so the audience could stay intrigued and not get bored.

Besides my few critiques, several actors gave standout performances, such as Ruthie Anne Miles, who got a Tony nomination for her role as Beggar Woman. She brought so much angst and passion to the role, which was erratic and fun to watch.

Additionally, Maria Bilbao as Johanna was incredible. Her voice is insane, and her storyline with Anthony was a refreshing break from the show’s main plot. Lastly, “Stranger Things” star Gaten Matarazzo was wonderful as Tobias Ragg. His character deterioration throughout the show was very interesting to watch as an audience member.

While some scenes felt too long and accents were too tricky to understand, the performers in this show truly made it stand out. The acting, singing, and dancing are just incredible, and it’s so refreshing to see a classic production like this one back on the Broadway stage. I would recommend it, but I’m not sure I’d kill to see it again.


3/5 Stars


Featured photo courtesy of @sweeneytoddbway, Instagram