Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sweeney Todd at The Venue

The second you enter The Venue, 511 Virginia Drive, Orlando, Fl, you are right on top of the action in Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Insane asylum patients moan, twitch and shout out all around you. In this intimate setting the action explodes out towards the audience. Derek Critzer who directed and produced the show also did an amazing job at designing the multi-level set which made maximum use of the cramped stage area. Simple asylum fabrics hid the structure while a staircase gave access to the upper levels at house right. As I approached the theater, the large garage style side door was open and I saw a tall stack of mattresses which is where the slit throated victims from the barber's chair could collapse. The lighting for the show by Tabor Wiwstead, was simple direct and elegant. Red symbolized the sinister and horrific moments, while cool blue lighting surrounded the lovely Johanna Barker , played by Monica Titus, and the fleeting glimpses of Todd's once happy past.

Stephan Jones played Sweeney Todd with a dark ruddy maliciousness. The depth of his anger and hatred could be felt in every scene. He performed the role so expertly that he made Johnny Depp seem like an inexperienced fop in the film adaptation. Ginger Minj, Joshua Eads-Brown, as Nellie Lovett added the needed brevity and humor to the show. When she had to peal off her misbehaving eyelashes, a moment likely not rehearsed, it was a golden moment the audience loved. As she swung her rolling pin violently, I could see the sweat on her brow, then trickling down her chest settling in her cleavage. These actors were working hard yet having fun belting out these tunes. Granted there was no room for an orchestra, so recordings had to work instead. Sweeney Todd is a sweeping epic story and yet the small venue actually intensified the confrontational quality of the show. At times, over 20 actors navigated their way on the tight stage. I could see Derek the director watching intently as he leaned over from the upstairs tech booth.

The entire first act was spent waiting for Todd to slit Judge Turpin's throat. The judge played by Brett Carson could barely fit in the barber's chair. Though his actions were malicious and self serving, he had a kind demeanor and left the dirty work to others. This is such an ambitious production by Clandestine ARTS yet the cast did an amazing job keeping up with Stephen Sondheim's fast and furious lyrics. I was bowled over by what was accomplished in the small Venue. The shows are selling out. I sketched by standing in the back of the theater. The show had all the savory flavor and taste of a perfectly prepared meat pie.

The remaining performances are...
Tonight, Thursday 1/16-7:00 PM
Friday 1/17-8:00 PM
Saturday 1/18- 8:00 PM
Sunday 1/19- 3:00 PM

Tickets are $20.00 and are General Admission. Tickets may be purchased at Limited seating is available so be sure to get them early. Tickets may be available at the door based on availability.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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