Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by Hugh Wheeler. A Snapshots Collective production. At Mrs Lovett’s Pie Shop on Saturday, October 13. Continues until November 1
With Halloween approaching, the Snapshots Collective’s immersive production of Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award–winning musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has been unleashed at the perfect time. Bone-chilling and imaginative, this resurrection of Sweeney Todd delivers Sondheim’s masterpiece score and the show’s murderous story line in a way that’s wickedly and enjoyably up close and personal: at an actual pie shop.
Director Chris Adams and choreographer Nicol Spinola have creatively devised a setting that transports audiences right into the 19th-century-London story. At the discreet Gastown venue, audiences enter an eerie, candlelit room, where some lucky members get to sit at a long, T-shaped wooden table in the centre of the room—the best view in the house… And also the messiest.
Once the show begins, the storefront’s door closes, as if to say “There’s no way out now.” We’re soon surrounded by the show’s cast, dressed in Emily Fraser’s Victorian-era costumes, as they begin the twisted tale of lost love and revenge. This is not a production for the faint of heart—the actors slither and squeeze themselves among the audience, making eye contact and singing directly at people. The experience of hearing the pure voices of the cast singing Sondheim’s exquisite score inches away from you is a rare treat.
The plot revolves around Sweeney Todd, a wrongfully accused convict returning to London after a 15-year exile in Australia. Having been torn away from his wife and infant child, Todd now wants to enact revenge on the crooked Judge Turpin—the man who falsified Todd’s charges in order to get close to his wife.
But as Todd bides his time by restarting his barbershop above Mrs. Lovett’s dwindling meat-pie shop, both he and Mrs. Lovett realize that murderous opportunities are plentiful. And the more dead bodies pile up, the more successful Mrs. Lovett’s business gets.
We can at first sympathize with Warren Kimmel’s brilliant Sweeney Todd, whose descent into complete madness becomes all too frightening in the song “Epiphany”. As his partner in crime, Mrs. Lovett (Colleen Winton) is a fireball of ruthlessness. Winton’s voice is remarkable, ranging from gritty earthiness at times to sailing, clear sounds in her rendition of “The Worst Pies in London”.
Not all of the show is gruesomely evil. Take “The Contest”, for example, where Jonathan Winsby, as rival barber Adolfo Pirelli, provides the show with some welcome comic relief, while showcasing his glorious vocal abilities. And as young couple Anthony and Johanna, Alex Nicoll and Rachel Park display beautiful tenderness and affection in their scenes together, especially in “Kiss Me”, in which they plot their escape.
As Pirelli’s simple-minded young assistant, Tobias Ragg, Oliver Castillo goes from playful and cheerful in “The Contest” to tragic demise within the Todd-Lovett household.
And the characters envelop us throughout. In fact, at one point during the show, some audience members are politely asked to stand as the centre table is used to seat Mrs. Lovett’s meat-pie shop customers.
Perhaps the most interactive aspect of the experience is being splattered with fake blood whenever a character is murdered. (Don’t worry: the show’s creative team has stressed that the blood is nonstaining and washes right out.)
And if all of this isn’t immersive enough for you, you can also preorder meat pies from the show’s pie provider, Pie Hole, to sadistically enjoy before the bloody entertainment begins. Bon appétit.