THROUGH NOV. 5: SWEENY TODD/The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Attention! Allay your fears regarding previous rumors surrounding productions of this classic musical that were often filled with blatant bloody realism. The Award-winning, Moonbox Productions has refined this show into a spectacular new, viewer friendly production. They have garnered a fabulous cast of incredibly talented actors who flawlessly and with great acuity and emotion perform the many complicated numbers written by the late, legendary Sondheim. The troop is connected with a brilliant orchestra under the musical direction of Dan Ryan who heightens the musical pieces, often to thunderous applause. The cast are dressed in artsy period costumes designed by Rebecca Glick and then inserted in a highly clever Set Design by Cameron McEachern. Intricate choreography by Joy Clark and Fight Choreography further enhance the experience. Arrow Street Arts, located at 2 Arrow Street in Cambridge, opens their new theater space with this presentation of the Tony-Award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim (Music and Lyrics) and Hugh Wheeler (book).

The character of Sweeny Todd and his manically murderous ventures was first introduce in 1846 and was titled “The String of Pearls”. Its popularity with the Victorian public quickly expanded the series into a fully staged play that eventually arrived in America in 1852 and has maintained its popular interest. In1970, the British Actor, Christopher Bond, expanded it further by focusing on major story and character development. This inspired Sondheim’s magnificent creation of the musical in 1979. Almost fifty years later, with numerous popular stage versions, Moonbox Productions director, Ryan Mardesich, has created an extraordinarily fresh version that exquisitely highlights the psychological dimensions of each character, thus minimizing the traditional bloody gore often found in previous presentations. Rather than focusing on the story and characters., staged production have often relied heavily on realistic gore. This was carried to extremes with the Johnny Depp film of Sweeny Todd that came with an R rating as its attraction surrounded lots of realistic blood as well as consuming dead body parts. The Moonbox production brings a fresh air approach by personifying each character with bits of whimsy in between to carry the audience through the tragic and grim tale. Thus, Ryan Mardesich, has taken this marvelous musical from its undeserved treatment and reputation as a “blood spatter” piece to a fine piece of musical theater. Set in 1846, in impoverished London, The tale of Sweeney Todd, passionately played by Davron Monroe*, surrounds Benjamin Barker, a successful barber. But an evil Judge Turpin (Todd Yard) lusts after Barker’s beautiful wife, Lucy. Utilizing his power within a corrupt justice system, Turpin deliberately and wrongfully banishes the barber to an Australian penal colony. After 15 tortuous years, Barker escapes and returns to London, anxious to rejoin his wife and daughter. He is told that, with the help of the judges unscrupulous aide, Beadle Bamford (Meagan Lewis-Michelson, Turpin raped his wife, forcing her into madness and taking arsenic. His small child, Johanna (Eva Colliou), became the ward of Turpin.

Anna Viveros and Abigail Whitney watch Todd Yard (the sexually tormented Judge Turpin) Now that she has grown into a beautiful young woman. the judge becomes besotted with her, keeping her imprisoned and satiating his lust by forcing her to marry him. Barker is saved by a kindly sailor, Anthony Hope (Dallas Austin Jammar) and thus changes his name to Sweeney Todd. He is aided by his meat-pie baking neighbor, Mrs. Lovett (Joy Clark*), who recognizes Barker and has always fostered a fondness for him. She helps him open a barber shop.

Davron S. Monroe” and Joy Clark” With his straight razor back in his right hand, Sweeny’s obsession with revenge on Turpin begins to blind him. After killing a Mr. Pirelli (Ethan DuPuy who threatens to expose Sweeny’s identity, he and Mrs. Lovett hatch a plan surrounding what to do with Pirelli’s remains. They join together and begin to wreak havoc on Fleet Street as well as serve up the best meat pies in London, made with the most unsettling ingredients.

Todd McNeel Jr, Caitlin Zerra Rose, Joy Clark*, Alexander Lyons, Tim Lawton, Cianin D’Hondt adn Eli Douglass celebrate Mrs. Lovett’s tasty pies. Meanwhile, Anthony Hope spies Johanna in her window, becomes hopelessly in love with her and plots to rescue her from the evil Judge Tuirpin. We watch Sweeney disintegrates mentally to an increasingly dark place, feeling that, “all deserve to die”. Included in the murderous mayhem is the beggar woman (Caitlin Zerra Rose). She is actually an insane Lucy who suspects that things are terribly wrong on Fleet Street.

Eli Douglas (Tobias) and Cast A delightful and incredibly strong performer, is the young and a bit simple minded, Tobias Ragg (Eli Douglas) who becomes a true, innocent victim in all the chaos. The balance of the talented cast members are Meagan Lewis-Michelson (Beadle), Ethan DePuy (Pirelli/Fogg), Eli Douglas (Toby), Dallas Austin Jimmar (Anthony),Ana Viveros (Ensemble), Ciaran D’Hondt (Ensemble), Abigail Whitney Smith (Ensemble), Alexander Lyons (Ensemble), Tim Lawton (Ensemble), and Todd McNeel Jr. (Ensemble). It promotes the question…Is Sweeny Todd really the principal villian? Was he more a victim of a corrupt system? Or does it direct us to a more Brechtian impression. (Bertolt Brecht’s uniquely epic approach to theater leaned toward the rational and politically focused situations with characters. Is a man’s actions actually affected by social conditions and that change should be found first in his economic or ideological environment). With each show, Moonbox Productions partners with a local non-profit. For this production Moonbox will be partnering with New England Innocence Project (NEIP) which corrects and prevents wrongful convictions and fights injustice within the criminal legal system for innocent people imprisoned for a crime they did not commit in New England. They also work to educate and advocate for legislative and judicial reforms to prevent future tragedies. Tickets for this stunning production with Moonbox’s take on the modern myth that surrounds a true parable of power, may be purchased at www.moonboxproductions.org