Sweeney Todd
by New Jersey Youth Theatre

It’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Stephen Sondheim’s humorously macabre concoction about a vengeful barber and the friend meat pie baker Mrs. Lovett – a musical tale of vengeance and entrepreneurship. And it’s a darkly comic masterpiece that New Jersey Youth Theatre is doing a masterful job with it in all aspects of production.

The cast is drawn from many cities in New Jersey and ranges in age from early high school through college, filled with remarkable vocal performances and strong actors led by Kevin Melendez and Jaclyn Ingoglia as Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett. Both have riveting stage presence. Kevin captures the distraught Sweeney with great emotion and regret, as well as humor. Sent away to Australia after trumped-up charges by Judge Turpin, the play opens with Sweeney’s return to London, and the news that his wife committed suicide after her rape by Turpin, Sweeney’s daughter Johanna now Turpin’s ward. Kevin approaches the flashback rape scene, trying vainly but hopelessly to stop the past crime that ruined both their lives. He also works in a good, understated humor that often complements his relentless pursuit of vengeance and his teetering on the edge of sanity.

While Jaclyn Ingoglia is a darkly hilarious Mrs. Lovett, the widow living downstairs from Sweeney’s old barber shop who now sells meat pies and still pines for Sweeney. That infatuation with Sweeney never dies and is always present, whether she’s serenading him with her vision for their life down By the Sea (Sweeney erupts in a quick burst of crazed laughter when she mentions that he can once in a while do a guest in), lovingly polishing up his razor against her bosom before his first big test with his old instruments, or still gazing at him with patient desire even after the show’s bloody end. Their Priest duet to end the first act, as the business plan to make meat pies out of Sweeney’s clients is fully developed, is delicious.

The cast is top notch throughout. As Sweeney’s young friend Anthony who saved him in the water and gets him to London, Stephen Mir gets more out of his character than usual. Eryn LeCroy also excels as Johanna, Sweeney’s lovely daughter who has even lovelier vocals as the trapped bird in Turpin’s cage, connecting with her bird friends with both joy at their presence and despair at her relation to them, trembling at the presence of her guardian who wants to turn his ward into his wife, and excited and hopeful at the wooing of Anthony. The two work exceptionally well together, making their sudden romance seem genuine and compelling.

Setting in motion all the tragedy is Adam Bashian as Judge Turpin, who brilliantly captures the judge’s obsession for Pretty Women including his ward. The scene as Sweeney gives Turpin his shave is tense, humorous, and well sung. Chris Georgetti is an intimidating and creepy Beadle Bamford, the judge’s right-hand man. Lori Tishfield is terrific as an insane Beggar Woman who will gladly do anything for a penny as she cares for her dolly and is troubled by the things she sees and senses. While Kirk Geritano is a diverting, over-the-top salesman Adolfo Pirelli and Carey Gsell is a sweet and fey assistant Tobias who shares a great scene as he tenderly and unnervingly “comforts” Mrs. Lovett with Not While I’m Around.

Director Cynthia Meryl and her team have a magnificent vision for the show. No moment is wasted. Alexander Fogel’s lighting design paints the set (Mark Nayden) and characters with powerful touches both bright and subtle, Michael Sinclair’s dramatic sound effects add much. And the talent-filled ensemble inhabits their individual characters and work perfectly together, making each moment and lyric meaningful whether they are obsessed with yummy meat pies, responding to the shave-off between Sweeney and Pirelli with humor and trepidation (and one of them jealous of Tobias’ long hair), or telling the tale of Sweeney Todd.

Performed July 17 - August 9, 2009

Rob Hopper
Executive Director
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Sweeney Todd: Kevin Melendez
Anthony: Stephen Mir
A Beggar Woman: Lori Tishfield
Mrs. Nellie Lovett: Jaclyn Ingoglia
Memory of Lucy: Jennifer Kujawski
Judge Turpin: Adam Bashian
Beadle Bamford: Chris Georgetti
Johanna: Eryn LeCroy
Bird Seller: Corey Masklee
Tobias: Carey Gsell
Adolfo Pirelli: Kirk Geritano
Three Tenors:
Benjamin Chavez
Sergio Hernandez
Nicholas Magliocco
Benjamin Chavez
Larissa D'Andrea
Stephen Michel
James Smith
Laura Soto-Bayomi
Fogg: James Smith
London Ensemble:
Julia Babis
Monica Ban
Sarah Beese
Shani Bektempa
Lauren Campbell
Benjamin Chavez
Katy Cockrell
Larissa D'Andrea
Kirk Geritano
Sergio Hernandez
Alyssa Kempinski
Rebecca Karinik
Jennifer Kujawski
Elyse Langely
Nicholas Magliocco
Corey Masklee
Steven Michel
Justin D. Reamy
Matthew Robertson
James Smith
Laura Soto-Bayomi

Director: Cynthia Meryl
Scenic Design: Mark Nayden
Costume Design: Aaron Mastin
Lighting Design: Alexander Fogel
Sound Design: Michael Sinclair


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