by Paula Citron
British director John Doyle scales down big musicals and hires singers who are also their own orchestra. The result catapults lyrics and character into sharp relief because big production values have been minimized. Such is Doyle’s touring version of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.
Doyle’s concept has inmates in an insane asylum putting on a play, but his fascinating player-orchestra style does have drawbacks in limiting staging in a small space. Doyle’s strong suit, however, is how he has integrated the instruments into the action as if they were characters in their own right.
The charismatic Judy Kaye as Mrs. Lovett is worth the price of admission. While their musicianship is excellent, the rest of the cast falls short. You either can’t hear their words or their characterizations aren’t sharp enough. It is, therefore, a testament to Doyle’s vision that this Sweeney Todd is such powerful theatre.
Sweeney Todd continues until Dec. 9.
From the Princess of Wales Theatre, I’m Paula Citron, arts reviewer for THE NEW CLASSICAL 96.3 FM.