Monday, November 11, 2013


The Next Door Theatre Company in Winchester thinks SWEENEY TODD ought to have his head examined so they’ve referred the whole production (playing through Nov. 16th) to a mental hospital. Director Brian Milauskas’ concept confines the whole cast there. Now I prefer my SWEENEY straight, not straight jacketed but I have an open mind. If the concept works, I’ll happily go along.

If Cervantes’ fellow prisoners can act out the MAN OF LA MANCHA, then maybe the inmates at Next Door’s psych ward can tackle Sondheim. The cast certainly can sing. With Dan Rodriguez music directing, SWEENEY sounds just fine. Peter S. Adams as the demon barber and Jackie Coco as Mrs. Lovett dovetail beautifully. Their duets are heaven sent. Brandon Grimes is a strong Anthony to Erin Anderson’s sweet Joanna. Paul Soper as the Judge and Jared Walsh as Tobias add to the solid leads but the inconsistencies in the concept will have you pulling out your hair.

You can’t give a minor character a knife and not give Sweeney a blade. (When he raises his arm to say it’s at last “complete,” a flask just doesn’t cut it, as it were.) AND you can’t have Sweeney’s victims slump, then walk off stage without a scratch like they’re coming back soon. (A couple seated near me had no idea anyone had been killed.)

I’ve seen death easily dramatized by unfurling a red scarf at one’s throat…or by placing a sheet over the departed. Even a sign that said “dead” would have helped out. If you didn’t know the story, you wouldn’t have a clue and the absence of a barber’s chair didn’t help. Making Sweeney thrust that flask at his intended quarry merely made you think he was an alcoholic, proffering them a drink.

I really, really wanted it to work for the sake of the singers but alas, it did not.