On Aug. 27, the Vista Theatre in Negaunee opened a show that would make even the most level headed among us think twice before visiting a barbershop. “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is a production infused with a special blend of macabre humor and sheer terror.
“Todd” first slashed his way onto the stage in 1979 and has since become a stunning example of what a true theatrical thriller can be. It tells the tale of a wrongly exiled 19th century barber and his quest for bloody retribution. Tim Burton took the musical to the big screen in 2007 with such actors as Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Alan Rickman.
Now, The Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council has tried its hand at this epic tale of revenge, love and pie. The result is extraordinary.
Over the years, this show has established a few prolific characters. Ben Filipowicz as Sweeney Todd sets the tone in his first seconds on stage with his ability to give even the most seasoned theatergoer
goose bumps. His aptitudeto tackle this darkly complicated and vocally challenging role is proof of dedication and passion for the stage. Sarah Frame is delightfully
engaging in her role as the widowed pie maker with an unrequited love of the brooding barber. She displays a remarkable vocal veracity by tackling a variety
of solo, duet and ensemble musical numbers.
Paige Graham truly shines on stage as the lovely, vocally stunning, and tragically captive Johanna. She is also the love interest for the sailor Anthony, deftly played by actor Matt Mitchell. Graham and Mitchell are responsible for several adorably naive scenes and duets throughout the show. T.J. Anderson lends his voice and ability to the role of the colorful, and underhanded, Pirelli. Ella Bartlett plays, with adroit skill, the seemingly innocuous role of the beggar woman. Not to be forgotten is the enthusiastic and skillful performance by Ricky Peterson as Toby. This kid can bring tears to your eyes.
Johanna’s captor, Judge Turpin, is portrayed by Craig Grabarczyk in a brilliant casting choice. His true theatrical aptitude is defined in his impassioned plea for divine forgiveness in his Act I solo. As Turpin’s lackey, Beadle Bamford, we have Kurt Hauswirth whose vocal prowess steals the show in Act II with an impromptu recitation
of “Sweet Polly Plunket.”
Bringing “Fleet Street” to life is Marty Martello who referenced the professional sets used on Broadway to create a turntable that enabled quick scene transitions.
With the exception of Martello’s work, much of the show’s technical aspect was conceived by NMU students who double as actors. The seamless and ingenious props are the work of Sarah Frame (also playing Lovett). The costumes are the work of Ella Bartlett (also playing the Beggar Woman) and hair and make-up is under the direction of Alaina O’Brien (also in the chorus).
Even the director, 19 year old Emma Couling, is an accomplished actress both at the Vista Theatre and Northern Michigan University’s own Forest Roberts Theatre. It is her second show of the summer, but any exhaustion she might be feeling does not translate to her superbly directed scenes. Her dedication and pride in this show is evident as she walks the aisles of the theatre greeting friends and newcomers alike.
This show is truly a testament to the young theatrical talent residing in Marquette and its surrounding towns. “Sweeney Todd” is rated PG-13 so think twice before
bringing small children.