Ghosts, Ghouls, and Barbers?

by Samantha Ward, http://neovox.cortland.edu, November 20, 2009

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Halloween weekend I saw plenty of Lady Gaga's and Sailors running around Cortland. SUNY Cortland was not lacking witches, bumbles bees, or professional sports players. The costumes that caught my attention, however, could not be seen in Marc's Pizzeria or walking through Main Street. It was the creepy makeup and outfits of the cast of SUNY Cortland's production of "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" that I could not help but marvel at. I mean how could I avoid those faces when they kept popping up from hidden crawlspaces only inches from where I was sitting?

Sweeney Todd was the perfect play for Halloween weekend. The musical theater department obviously knew what they were doing when the dates were picked. From the sudden appearance of scary looking ensemble members and the use of fake blood made this play scream Halloween. Speaking of screams, I heard plenty of those from audience members when the cast came jumping out at them. Many people were squirming in their seats as cast members frantically ran around the stage reaching out to their spectators.

The cast consisted of 35 people. There were not only Cortland students partaking in the play. Some teachers as well as town people were also involved in the making of this production. There is Tom Fuchs, who is a physical education faculty member, was joined by his son Tim a freshman musical theater major. Tim was cast as Pirelli, a main role. A sixth grader, Cassidy Halpin was a member of the ensemble.

The play is about Sweeney Todd, formerly known as Benjamin Barker, who comes back to his home town after having been sent away unjustly by the Judge. He comes back and befriends Ms. Lovett, the owner and chef of a meat pie shop. Sweeney hears that his wife had poisoned herself and that his daughter Joanna was taken in by the Judge as his ward. Antony, a young man who helped Todd travel back to England unknowingly falls in love with Sweeney's daughter Joanna. In order to secure his daughters safety and to get revenge Todd decides to kill the Judge and his assistant Beadle. Ms. Lovett and Todd from an alliance and have a business selling meat pies out of the customers Todd killed in his job as a barber. In the end most of the main characters end up dead except for Antony, Joanna, and Toby, a boy Mrs. Lovett adopted after his caretaker was killed by Todd. It's a story of love, revenge, and death.

Douglas Robbins, who played Sweeney Todd, did a spectacular job. His acting skills were superb. When he was mad, I could feel the anger radiating off him. His laughter was an evil laugh that made the audience uneasy. Rebecca Rozzoni, who played Ms. Lovett, was hysterical. She played a good motherly character toward Ryan McDonalds character Toby. Her voice was excellent especially when she sang By The Sea. Ryan McDonald's character had a loveable naive personality that the audience couldn't help but adore. He kept the audience laughing at the sight of such a character getting drunk and with his enthusiasm to make the meat pies. Kara Howard, Joanna, and Anthony Festa, Anthony, had an on stage chemistry that had the audience jealous of their relationship. When they sang Kiss, it was hard not to smile and the cute idea of love at first sight. All of the actors in the play did a good job. I was particularly pleased with the accents they donned for their roles as citizens of England. The play was put together very well.

My favorite scene had to be the in which God That's Good was performed. I thought this was done perfectly. I liked how most of the cast was on the stage at that point. It was a funny scene in which Ms. Lovett sells her meat pies made of humans. The townspeople all love her food and are having a good time dancing and drinking. During this time Sweeney Todd is delivered his new barber's chair that has trap door at the bottom sending the bodies of his victims to the cellar to be made into pies. It is a fun song that shows the differences in Sweeney Todd and Ms. Lovett's purposes of the business they have created.

This play was a great success. Audience members left the theater ranting about the whole performance. Those who did not attend the show missed a spectacular performance. But don't worry if you're one of those unfortunate enough to have not seen the show, another musical will be performed in the fall. This is one that should not be missed since its going to be RENT! It's going to be difficult to exceed the success of this show but I am sure that they will do it.

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