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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street @ Portland Center Stage

"Sweeney Todd" opened Portland Center Stage's 25th Anniversary Season, and everything about the production befit the momentous occasion. Portland Center Stage's version began uniquely; the opening scene in which London's Street People invite us to "attend the tale of Sweeney Todd" features anachronistically dressed police officers, a deliberate allusion to the "Occupy Portland" protests.

"Sweeney Todd" is the story of a renowned barber bent on revenge, whose thirst for blood grows worse, and soon London's most famous barber partners with a purveyor of meat-pies and they happen-upon a ghastly new recipe..... 

Sweeney is played with simmering anger and boundless energy by Aloysius Gigl. Another stand-out performance is given by Matthew Alan Smith, as Judge Turpin. To call him repellent would be an understatement. Maybe it was body language, or maybe his scraggly hair, but despite his position of prestige and nearly unquestioned authority in the play, there's something about him that suggests he is unclean. Of course, his actions and desires bear that out figuratively, but the scene in which he proposes to his young Ward, even without considering their age-difference or the circumstances of their relationship, it is still a stomach-churning idea, (I think the Street Walkers would turn him down...)

The set is by the man who designed Portland Center Stage's first production, and they invited him to return for the anniversary, and looking at the truly impressive, fittingly large, and frequently morphing set, one can see why they brought him back, and I'm sure the aptness of having someone named William Bloodgood design the set for "Sweeney Todd" was not lost on anyone.....

Also worthy of praise is the haunting lighting by Diane Ferry Williams. In short, Portland Center Stage has pulled out all the stops for this production, and all would be wise to attend the tale.....

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