.‘Sweeney Todd’ is a Cut Above

Within the last year, we’ve lost Angela Lansbury and Stephen Sondheim, and each passing brought to mind their most successful collaboration—Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Following years of pandemic-induced delays, Napa’s Lucky Penny Productions finally takes a stab at it—through Nov. 6.

After years in exile, Benjamin Barker (Ian Elliot) returns to London, having adopted the moniker of Sweeney Todd. Todd seeks revenge on the villainous Judge Turpin (David Murphy) and his enforcer Beadle Bamford (Sean O’Brien) for the loss of his wife and daughter. He enters into a pact with pie-shop owner Nellie Lovett (Taylor Bartolucci) to facilitate his revenge and provide the pie shop with a steady supply of fresh meat.

Director Staci Arriaga had her hands full with making a very large-scale musical work in the small Lucky Penny space. Priority was given to vocal talent and the show really scores there. The score was flawlessly delivered by musical director Craig Burdette (piano) with Wendy Seres (clarinet), Jay Benson (bassoon), Ruth Wilson (horn) and Ellen Blakey (cello).

Elliot’s strong stage presence matched his fine vocals as the tortured Todd. Lovett is a good role for Bartolucci, but her uneven Cockney accent made some of Sondheim’s lyrics indecipherable. Great supporting work is done by Jeremy Kreamer as rival barber Pirelli and Tuolumne Bunter as his assistant, Tobias. Romantic duties were well-handled both vocally and performance-wise by Ethan Thomas as Anthony and Kirstin Pieschke as Johanna.

While they delivered strong vocal work, there was a decided lack of malevolence in both Murphy’s Turpin and O’Brien’s Bamford. These characters are truly loathsome and need to be played exponentially and less-superficially darker.

While the tonsorial parlor customers’ “exits” were well handled, the placement of actors on audience-area platforms and in aisles led to some awkward sightlines and blocked views. Cast members occasionally towered over audience members. Spreading the musicians across the stage and on multiple levels was an interesting idea.

An ambitious production for this company, its successful elements make this Sweeney Todd a cut above your regular community theater fare.

‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ runs through Nov. 6 at the Lucky Penny Community Arts Center. 1758 Industrial Way, Napa. Thurs, 7pm; Fri–Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. $32–$43. 707.266.6305. luckypennynapa.com

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