Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street-November 2010-Alexander Kasser Theater
Sweeny Revengeful, Murderous, Throat-slitting Todd. That’s right, folks. THE Sweeney Todd. By far my favorite play I have seen at Montclair State so far, this show was epic and phenomenal, so that’s why I am so excited to finally get to write about it on my list. I don’t think, from an audience point of view, I saw one flaw. However, like most Peak Performances, there are awkward sexual moments to commend.
*Beware of Spoilers*
• The Beggar Woman hits on both Sweeney Todd and Anthony: When we first open up the story after the most awesome prelude ever, we meet Sweeney Todd and Anthony on a boat embarking for London. When they get off this boat, they are both bombarded by a Beggar Woman for money and then—sex. At this moment and then throughout the play she makes comments about their penises and comes onto them quite strongly. This may sound weird, but part of me wishes that Sweeney had given in to her advances. One reason being that he has maybe been deprived of sex the past fifteen years at the penal colony. Another reason, a reason that is more relevant to the plot, is that this way he would have recognized her as his wife Lucy ahead of time. So many lives would have been spared and Sweeney probably would have never met Mrs. Lovett. Anthony would have found out that their daughter Johanna was in Judge Turpin’s clutches and together they would have found a way to get her back and live happily ever after.
• Judge Turpin rapes Lucy: I hate rape scenes on stage, in movies, in books, etc. I feel like such events are so real for people that actually experience them, that when they occur in these forms, it’s as if we are using it as entertainment, almost glorifying them. I mean, if rape is going to be a theme for your piece, just mention it. Don’t show the actual act in detail in my opinion. What if a rape victim trying to heal is in your audience? This kind of scene can be traumatizing for he or she and bring back horrible memories. Not often will a person going into the theater know what exactly is in store. But unfortunately, these scenes exist. It is most awkward on stage because it is happening right in front of you, making it that much more real and frightening. In this context, Mrs. Lovett is telling Sweeney what happened after Turpin sent him to the penal colony, so we are getting flashbacks as a musical number. Turpin invites Lucy to a party and even though at first she rejects his invite, she eventually attends. When she gets there she does not know anyone, poor thing, for it is a masquerade party and the guests are flamboyantly dressed in disguises. At this point Turpin’s evil sidekick Beadle Bamford attacks and restrains Lucy so Turpin could rape her—right in the middle of the party. The party guests witness this and do what you would expect any normal large group of civilized people to do upon witnessing a rape—laugh at Lucy. Say it with me: WTF? Thankfully this scene ends with Sweeney crying in agony, thus causing Lovett to end the song. Check out both “Poor Thing” and “My Friends” from this clip:
• Judge Turpin lusts after Johanna: Yeah, I think this one speaks for itself. An old man who acts as a father figure to a young developing girl and then lusts after her is beyond creepy. However, there is something I want to say about this. I may sound crazy, but I really don’t think this is too bad. Hold on! Let me explain! I mean I feel like it is normal for an older man to find a younger girl sexy, he is only human. It depends on how he acts on these feelings that makes it wrong. It’s not like Turpin plans on raping her like he did her mother, and he does ask God to help him restrain himself. But then again, Turpin does plan on marrying Johanna and tells her and Beadle about it nonchalantly as if it is completely normal… Oh please. This is just plain weird and creepy so let’s just move on.
• Johanna asks Anthony to kiss her: It’s not the fact that she wants him to kiss her that bugs me, but the fact that she asks at the weirdest times. I am not the biggest fan of Johanna anyway because to me she is this annoying damsel in distress who constantly needs rescuing and she just seems to me to act like a dingbat. She does not seem to be worldly wise and notice what is going on around her. When Anthony rescues her from Fogg’s Insane Asylum after Johanna uses Anthony’s gun to shoot Fogg. Wait a minute…Johanna shoots Fogg??? That’s right. The damsel in distress actually does something productive for once and ends up pulling one of the most epic moves in the show. Anyway when she does this, the lunatics escape from the asylum and run in the town resulting in a police chase. Anthony and Johanna reappear onstage as Johanna reminds Anthony that he promised to marry her on Sunday. Unfortunately the badass Johanna does not last long after the gunshot because then she goes, “Kiss me.” Anthony finally accomplishes what he set out to do throughout the entire play, which is to rescue Johanna without getting caught by either Turpin or Beadle, and in the meantime lunatics are running around town causing more chaos for the scene, and she has the nerve to ask him to kiss her AT THIS PRECISE TIME? He actually had to briefly stop them from running away to do so. That is two precious seconds taken away from their escape. There is a time and place for a kiss and now is not the time! Their focus now is to make their escape. Once this escape is successful, they will have plenty of time for kissing. Now I know I spent a lot of energy on this point about just one kiss, but it just had to be said. This scene, along with the deaths of both Turpin and Lucy, you can see here:
• Mrs. Lovett pining after Sweeney Todd: It just annoys me when women go out of their way to make a guy fall in love with them and convince themselves of their love when he is clearly hung up on someone else. That is what happens here. A perfect example of her unrequited affections is exhibited here:
Just as an added bonus, I thought I'd also include the two musical highlights of the performance (in my opinion) in this post. I do recommend checking out the other videos from the performance on YouTube as well. But for now, please enjoy "Epiphany" and "A Little Priest." :D
And finally, the last play of the series: The Rimers of Eldritch. :)
Check out the previous post of this series: The Seagull
You can check out my article about this show for The Monclarion here.