Sweeney Todd: School Edition
by Las Vegas Academy

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd: School Edition. It’s the world premiere of the school edition of the Sondheim masterpiece, recently held at the Las Vegas Academy in a production to die for. And, of course, most of the cast does just that, for Sweeney Todd is the demon barber of Fleet Street. He’s just returned from fifteen years at the penal colony of Botany Bay for a crime he didn’t commit to find that the judge who sent him there, Judge Turpin, had sent Sweeney away so that he could rape his wife. Sweeney learns from Mrs. Lovett, owner of a seedy meat pie shop downstairs from his old barbershop, that the rape drove his wife mad and into suicide. And the young daughter of Sweeney and his wife, Joanna, is now a lovely young woman who is the ward of Judge Turpin. And Turpin has his eyes set on marrying his young ward.

Naturally, all of this makes Sweeney obsessed with revenge. When Mrs. Lovett gives Sweeney his old barber tools, he goes to work with the aim of getting Turpin up to his shop for the closest shave the judge has ever had. As luck would have it, the judge ends up paying him a visit within a couple days. But just as the shave is about to get bloody, Sweeney’s young friend Anthony bursts in with the news that he is going to elope with Joanna. The angry judge leaves, Sweeney is furious, but Mrs. Lovett has an idea to turn that rage into profit. Sweeney has slit the throat of a blackmailer and has to dispose of a body. Mrs. Lovett needs meat to fill her pies. Sounds like a match made in…somewhere or another.

The show has a great cast of characters that allow the talented students at Las Vegas Academy to shine both dramatically and vocally. Philip Cerza has the look and hair of Sweeney Todd, a deep voice, and a strong, sad, melancholy, slightly crazed demeanor that makes you think he could really do the things he does. Rebecca Stewart is a hoot as the lovably sick Mrs. Lovett who adores Sweeney and is excited about the life they might have together By the Sea, her eyes gleaming as she shakes her little pigtails back and forth, trying her best to get the Turpin-obsessed Sweeney to be as excited as she is. She does succeed in getting him to brighten a little when she explains her business plan of converting various professional people into pies during their first-act ending number A Little Priest.

Tia Konsur is marvelous as Sweeney’s half-crazed daughter Joanna, singing with a gorgeous voice to her caged Green Finch and Linnet Bird while resembling a caged bird herself with nervous, fidgety, bird-like movements. We know she’s really losing it when she gets stuffed in an asylum and we see her profile bobbing up and down like the classic wooden bird bobbing its beak up and down into a cup of water. The young sailor Anthony who falls in love with her is played by Jeff Zicker who lends his great voice and comedy to their duet Kiss Me as he tries to woo the flighty, bird-like girl. Jayce Johnson is a rip as Pirelli, a humbug elixir salesperson and barber with an outrageous French accent and a thick Irish one when he reveals his true name. He had a shaving accident opening night, but fortunately no one was killed. Elsewhere, Anna Morris is appropriately nuts as the lunatic Beggar Woman who keeps pestering the other cast members, Cody Canyon is the boyish Tobias who Lovett takes under her wing, and who promises tenderly but with dark overtones that nothing’s going harm Mrs. Lovett, Not While I’m Around. Dakota Rakes makes for a coolly arrogant and in control Beadle, the assistant to Judge Turpin played by Julian Crider with smug self-righteousness who does not like to be crossed.

And then there’s the captivating ensemble that acts as dark narrators of the tale, as townsfolk, as stagehands moving sets and curtains around. And they are used expertly by the director even when not actively involved, always watching the action and setting the mood in various ways whether it be peacefully relaxing and lying their heads in each other’s lap while Tobias sings his lullaby to Mrs. Lovett, being eagerly transfixed as Sweeney gives the judge a shave, being disappointed when the judge gets away, and cringing in fear when Sweeney explodes into a rage.

The school edition has few changes to it, most of which will likely go unnoticed. There’s no blood spurting, and there’s no big barber chair with a chute. The victims of Sweeney’s razor walk in a sad daze down the stairs of the barbershop to put on a red coat, the preceding victim holding it for the new victim and helping to put it on. The Beggar Woman is a little subtler regarding what she’ll do for money, but still gets the point across.

Director Glenn Edwards has a brilliant vision for the show, and it all comes together flawlessly. Brian T. Downey leads a spot-on orchestra. Choreographer Tammy Pessagno is instrumental in creating the mood of the show. And Lighting Designer John R. Morris is brilliant as always, helping to create spectacular visuals. Even more so than usual thanks to Glenn Edwards’ inspired vision of using large silhouettes for many scenes. Those silhouettes include opening glimpses of townsfolk that immediately make us feel like we’re all in a sort of madhouse, a peaceful scene of Sweeney and Anthony getting off the boat in London, the rape of Sweeney’s wife as she lies helpless on the floor and the silhouette of Turpin grows to tower over and destroy her, and in the asylum with the silhouettes of the disturbing movements of the mentally insane add another layer to the insanity that permeates this show.

Performs November 1 - 10, 2007.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Sweeney Todd: Philip Cerza
Mrs. Lovett: Rebecca Stewart
Joanna: Tia Konsur
Anthony: Jeff Zicker
Judge Turpin: Julian Crider
Beadle: Dakota Rakes
Pirelli: Jayce Johnson
Tobias: Cody Canyon
Beggar Woman: Anna Morris
Rachel Richards
Caitlyn Cerza
Sylvia Brasuell
Callie Williams
Hailey Leeming
Alexis Fitting
Shararyah Clark
Julia DiVergilio
Vicki Colombo
Kerry Warren
Victoria Valenzuela
Jan Sicam
Nicholas Scheppard
DJ Taylor-Young
Travis Albright
Junshi Lu
Elijah O'Connell
Isaiah Lucas
Derek Alcaraz
Jordan Luna
Ryan Wesen

Director: Glenn Edwards
Choreographer: Tammy Pessagno
Vocal Director: Megan Habiger
Set Designers: Glenn Edwards and John R. Morris
Lighting Designer: John R. Morris
Costume Designer: Terry McGonigle
Sound Designer: Eric McFall
Conductor: Brian T. Downey


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