A Gem Worth Seeing (Sweeney Todd)

You too should attend the tale of Sweeney Todd, the Sheboygan Theatre Company’s current musical production, playing Wednesday through Saturday at the Leslie Johnson, Horace Mann Theatre. The macabre, sometimes humorous, and often unsettling story set to music by Stephen Sondheim has become a staple of the musical theatre repertoire and was presented with great skill and artistic style. Robert Marra’s powerful staging and clear attention to production values was a visual treat. The combination of Cory Drewry’s lighting and Deb Ericson’s costumes design helped to quickly establish time, place and mood. The elements of costumes and lights blended together to complement Marra’s beautiful tableau to open the show. The use of “up light” created a creepy, mysterious and haunting feeling as we were uneasily invited to hear the tale of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

The musical quality and acting talent of our community actors were clearly on display as several performances were executed with great skill and rivaled that of any production of Sweeney I have seen. Of special note was Diane Sciarra performance of Mrs. Lovett. Her full bodied character, physical and vocal humor, as well as precise singing helped to move the action of the show along and balance the dark and foreboding Sweeney. Her talent sparkled in a “Little Priest” and “By the Sea”. Other musical highlights were the performances of STC newcomer, Christopher Nathaniel Onyxx as Anthony, the young love interest and Joe Humiston’s second act performance in, “Not while I’m around”, as the disturbing Tobias.

While the best acting performance of the night was given by Sciarra, Scott A. Schmidt was a convincing Sweeney Todd and adeptly handled Sondheim’s, sometimes brutal and difficult musical score. His best moments musically were in the deep baritone and bass sections of songs. His best acting moments were playing off of the energetic and effusive Mrs. Lovett. Further, Schmidt created a physical character that reflected the weight of Sweeney’s experience and personal torment. He was so convincing as the serial killer that had I bumped into him on a darkened Sheboygan street, I would have likely been three blocks away before he could say “hello”. I would have liked for him to develop the charming part of Todd’s character more, but overall it was a memorable and impressive performance.

It is difficult to review a show that I have directed and seen several times, because I watched the performance with great expectation and emotional attachment. The Sheboygan Theatre Company’s performance of Stephen Sondheim’s, Sweeney Todd reminded me of how fortunate we are to have STC in our community. The level of talent on display was exceptional and the work of Mr. Marra reflects his experience and aptitude as a professional director. The gem, that is the Sheboygan Theatre Company, shone brightly on this cool spring night.

Jay Johnson
Sheboygan North High School
Theatre Director