Theatre Information

Fairfax High School Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (School Edition)

By • Apr 27th, 2012 • Category: Cappies, Virginia

A gloomy Victorian street slowly appears through a rustic puzzle of scaffolds and ladders. With a ghoulish crowd and their haunting murmurs seeping in, the only thing left to the audience’s imagination is the rotted stench of Fleet Street. Fairfax High School’s production of Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (School Edition) reminds us that “there’s no place like London.”

Based on a play of the same name, Sweeney Todd, which premiered in 1979 and ran on Broadway for a year, has been referred to as Sondheim’s greatest work. The musical tells the gruesome fable of barber Benjamin Barker (under the pseudonym of Sweeney Todd) who returns to his hometown of London after a wrongful fifteen year exile and begins a murderous business with a meat pie shop owner, Mrs. Lovett, after learning what became of his wife and daughter during his absence. On a bloodthirsty path to revenge, Todd begins to murder men who come to get their hair cut and shaved, and allows Mrs. Lovett to transform their bodies into pies sold to unsuspecting customers. Eventually, Todd inadvertently suffocates himself in a cocoon of his own murders after realizing he has killed the one person he loved most.

Reggie Harold (Sweeney Todd) and Alexandra Nicopoulos (Mrs. Lovett) do a spectacular job in creating the (mostly one-sided) loving relationship between their characters. This murderous duo play off each other in song and scene as they tackle Sondheim’s intimidating masterpiece, each with their own unique comedic and vocal styles. The two add a distinct splash of color to the somber and brooding haze that is the dominant mood of this musical.

Also notable is Jacob Lamb as Toby who, although only a seventh grader, sang professional-quality music virtually flawlessly, leaving many an audience member with a dropped jaw. Additionally, understudy Deanna Payne performed seemingly effortlessly and displayed excellent foreign accents while singing the wide-ranged songs of the Italian barber Pirelli.

Playing the Beggar Woman, a less well-known but charismatic and vocally challenging role, was Megan Cathro, whose antics ranged from begging for alms to attempting to seduce the young sailor Anthony. Her weak-yet-mischievous posture and voice were instantly recognized by the audience every time she stumbled onstage, where she shone like the flames that her character so obsessively warns about.

The special effects of the show are particularly praiseworthy. Executed by John Hobson and Chris Sisson, they included an efficient trapdoor to dispose of the bodies of Sweeney’s victims, a technical feat that took eight weeks to build. The light design of the show was also captivating, despite an occasional misplaced spotlight. Taking advantage of the multiple levels of the set’s scaffolding, the entire ensemble was occasionally lit in mood lighting during more intense scenes of the play. While there were occasional microphone problems, overall, the actors’ voices reached the audience’s ears without much difficulty.

With a rehearsal period of only about six weeks, Fairfax High School faced a beastly task head-on, and has brought to life a darkly Victorian tale of murder, mayhem, and lost love that chills to the core.

by Jamie Green of Robinson Secondary School

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