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A Small Theatre with a Big Punch: Sweeney Todd at the Pendragon Theatre, Review

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Sweeney Todd, Pendragon Theatre, Review

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.On Friday night, I was fortunate to see Pendragon Theatre’s production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I wasn’t disappointed.

This dark yet comical story of a barber who murders his clients has several layers of backstory, as well as witty dialogue and catchy songs. Based on Christopher Bond’s 1973 play of the same title, the story was adopted as a musical by Steven Sondheim, and debuted on the stage in 1979. Sweeney Todd was hugely popular, winning eight Tony Awards in 1979, including “Best Musical.” The original Broadway cast included Len Cariou as Sweeney Todd and Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett; in later revivals, stars such as Patti Lapone, Michael Cevaris, and Kelsey Grammer have all played lead characters. Tim Burton also made a film version of the story starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

The story revolves around Sweeney Todd (aka Benjamin Barker), who returns to London after 15 years of wrongful incarceration in Australia. After finding out that his wife killed herself and his daughter was living with Judge Tarpin–the very man who sent him away–Sweeney Todd vows revenge. Eventually his vendetta grows, and he begins killing his clients; add into the mix his landlady, Mrs. Lovett, who takes it a step further by baking the dead clients into pies. A very tense, dark musical indeed.

The heaviness of the storyline, however, is offset by the wittiness of the dialogue and songs, as well as the accompanying love story. A young sailor named Anthony falls in love with Johanna, Sweeney Todd’s daughter–some of the scenes revolve around his attempts to woo her and subsequently rescue her from the grasp of her ward, the Judge. By the end, all the major characters have died, except for Anthony, Johanna…and Mrs. Lovett’s helper, Tobias.

What makes this particular production so appealing is that you really feel like you’re watching a homegrown Broadway show. Loaded with talent, energetic performances, catchy tunes, a creative set and taut direction, Sweeney Todd is definitely one of this summer’s must-see shows.

Of special mention is George Cordes, who played the part of Sweeney Todd, turning in a powerful and witty performance, with a voice that rocked the house. Later I learned that Cordes had acted in more than 80 opera, operetta, and Broadway roles, and also serves as Artistic Director of High Peaks Opera Studio. The other lead, Laura-Jean Schwartau Swanson, was equally engaging–witty yet coarse, her mannerisms played well off of Cordes’s character. All of the cast deserves a mention, however, for turning in excellent performances all around.

I should also add that this was my first time viewing one of the shows at the Pendragon Theatre; it won’t be my last. I highly recommend seeing this production–it will feel like Broadway!

For more info, tickets and showtimes for Sweeney Todd and Pendragon’s remaining summer season, visit www.pendragontheatre.org

–Christie Sausa is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

Short URL: http://thefreegeorge.com/thefreegeorge/?p=13377

1 Comment for “A Small Theatre with a Big Punch: Sweeney Todd at the Pendragon Theatre, Review”

  1. Arlene Miller

    Was pleased to read this great review. I knew it would be a great show, and a wonderful time for all that could be present. I just wish I could, or that sometime in the future see George Cordes preform with his beautiful wife, Liz.

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