×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Off Broadway Review: ‘Sweeney Todd’ With Real Meat Pies

With:
Jeremy Secomb, Anthony Hope, Siobhan McCarthy, Betsy Morgan, Duncan Smith, Alex Finke, Brad Oscar, Joseph Taylor.

The Tooting Arts Club, a site-specific London community theater, has scored the ideal New York venue for its audience-pleasing version of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”  Tucked into Off Broadway’s Barrow Street Theater (transformed into “Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop,” after the oldest such establishment in London, where the show originated), this genial staging of the Hugh Wheeler-Stephen Sondheim musical invites audiences to eat, drink, and dodge the actors dancing on the tables.

As a curtain-raiser, Bill Yosses (the White House Executive Pastry Chef during the Obama administration) turns out tasty meat pies and mashed potatoes for early arrivals. It’s family seating for those who opt for food, although the shop seems to be all out of jellied eels at the moment. That means a dozen theatergoers sharing a meal at each of six long tables spaced throughout the auditorium. The same tables turn into mini-stages during the performance, so watch your fingers when the actors break into their cramped version of Georgina Lamb’s choreographed mini-dances. (Additional seating is available in the balcony.)

Popular on Variety

The clever pop-up set by Simon Kenny — a faithful replica of Harrington’s down to the stained glass windows — extends to the barber shop where Sweeney Todd (the riveting Jeremy Secomb) plies his bloody trade; the  emporium where Mrs. Lovett (Siobhan McCarthy, lovably insane) bakes her suspiciously juicy meat pies; and a number of other settings where Sweeney’s tragedy is related in some of Sondheim’s most delicious songs.

What, really, could be funnier than Mrs. Lovett’s manic delivery of “A Little Priest” and “Worst Pies in London,” or as exquisitely tender as “Joanna” and “Not While I’m Around” or as filled with yearning as “Pretty Women”?   Not to overlook “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd,” which still has the seductive power to make your skin crawl.

There’s barely room to swing a cat in the intimate auditorium, but savvy director Bill Buckhurst manages to keep the traffic moving up and down a narrow set of stairs and through a darkened doorway where unwary visitors in need of a shave tend to disappear, never to be seen again.  Tiny as it is, the house even accommodates an onstage trio of musicians on piano, violin, and clarinet. (Matt Aument is music director.)

Some credit goes to the house acoustics, but even so, the voices of the cast are uniformly robust.  Secomb’s piercing glare and growling baritone give the demon barber the kind of sex appeal that makes mincemeat of a lusty lady like Mrs. Lovett.  Matt Doyle has a tenor’s own sweetness as the young swain who loves Sweeney’s daughter, Johanna (Alex Finke).  And blimey, there’s Brad Oscar (from “Something Rotten!”) as Beadle Bamford.

This tight-knit company, some of whom have been with the show since it originated in Tooting, also has a flair for the show’s undercurrents of black humor. So be prepared for that huckster Adolfo Pirelli (Betsy Morgan) to rub “Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir” on every uncovered bald head in sight. And do expect lighting designer Amy Mae and sound man Matt Stine to set up a bloody racket when Sweeney’s victims go shuffling off to their deaths.

All in all, this cheerily gory show is great family fun — if your family happens to be the Munsters.

Off Broadway Review: 'Sweeney Todd' With Real Meat Pies

Barrow Street Theater; 130 seats; $125 top. Opened March 1, 2017. Reviewed Feb. 25.  Running time:  TWO HOURS, 40 MIN.

Production: A presentation by Rachel Edwards, Jenny Gersten, Seaview Productions, Nate Koch, Fiona Rudin, Barrow Street Theater, Jen Doumanian, and Rebecca Gold of the Tooting Arts Club production of a musical in two acts with book by Hugh Wheeler, and music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, from an adaptation by Christopher Bond.

Creative: Directed by Bill Buckhurst. Choreographer, Georgina Lamb; music supervisor & arranger, Benjamin Cox. Designed by Simon Kenny. Lighting, Amy Mae; sound, Matt Stine; music director, Matt Aument; production stage manager, Richard A. Hodge; chef & pie maker, Bill Yosses.

Cast: Jeremy Secomb, Anthony Hope, Siobhan McCarthy, Betsy Morgan, Duncan Smith, Alex Finke, Brad Oscar, Joseph Taylor.

More Legit

  • The Thin Place review

    'The Thin Place': Theater Review

    I can’t resist: “The Thin Place” is a thin play. But before it drifts away into the eternal empyrean, this slender drama by Lucas Hnath (“A Doll’s House, Part 2,” “Hillary and Clinton”) tells a beguiling ghost story. Well, not exactly a ghost story, but the story of a beguiling haunting that may or may [...]

  • The Ocean at the End of

    'The Ocean at the End of the Lane': Theater Review

    Is Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” a story of childhood for adults or an adult view of the world for children? As director Katy Rudd’s astonishingly theatrical production of Joel Horwood’s adaptation resoundingly proves, the answer is: Both. Although wisely recommended for audiences above the age of twelve – the [...]

  • Warner Bros. Pictures trailer launch event

    Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jon M. Chu Tease 'In the Heights' Movie

    Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Jon M. Chu and star Anthony Ramos took the train to the top of the world to offer a sneak peek of “In the Heights,” Warner Bros.’ big-screen adaptation of Miranda’s (other) hit musical. “I’m thrilled we’re here, and I’m thrilled we’re uptown,” Miranda rhapsodized to a packed crowd at a cozy [...]

  • Lucas Hnath

    Listen: Lucas Hnath's Own Play Gives Him Nightmares

    Tony-nominated playwright Lucas Hnath (“A Doll’s House, Part 2”) has two shows in New York this season: a monologue based on the real-life experiences of his mother, and a ghost story. One of them gave him nightmares — but it wasn’t the ghost story. Listen to this week’s podcast below: He explained why on the [...]

  • Greater Clements review

    'Greater Clements': Theater Review

    The American Dream and all of its values have taken quite a beating lately. Director and screenwriter Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” Bruce Springsteen’s recent “Western Stars” album, even Ralph Lauren in the documentary “Very Ralph” show us how this country and all of its totems and merits have gone asunder. No dreams are more crushed, [...]

  • Harry Connick Jr Walk of Fame

    Harry Connick Jr. on Returning to Broadway

    Harry Connick Jr. is headed back to Broadway with a three-week limited engagement celebration of legendary songwriter Cole Porter. The actor and musician came up with the concept for the show and is also directing. “I love Broadway and if I had two careers one of them would be only Broadway just because I love [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content