Sunday, April 16, 2017

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET • Stray Dog Theatre

Anybody hungry?
Stray Dog Theatre invites audiences to “Attend the tale...” in their latest offering, Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant, meaty musical thriller, Sweeney Todd. With a 2007 film version and contemporary stage variations, it’s a welcomed opportunity to get the chance to see this classic onstage in its more “OG” version -- though that wasn’t its original form.

The story of a murderous barber was introduced in a “Penny Dreadful” -- ghastly publications that were popular in the Victorian era. The serial, originally called “The String of Pearls: A Romance,” emerged many years and adaptations later, when Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s musical version debuted in 1979, winning eight Tony Awards.

There’s solid casting here, starting with Jonathan Hey in the title role. His imposing, brooding Sweeney will unnerve you -- in a good way. After being sent to the clink for life on a bogus charge, Sweeney escapes after 15 years and returns to London, hoping to discover the fate of his wife and daughter.
Mrs. Nellie Lovett (Lavonne Byers)
and Sweeney Todd (Jonathan Hey).
Photo credit: John Lamb
He is also determined to exact revenge on Judge Turpin, who had Sweeney sent down so he could have Sweeney’s wife for himself. Hey’s strong baritone and acting chops take you along into his descent into hell-bent vengeance, with props for his pale-faced, dark-eyed make-up design. His willing accomplice is Mrs. Nellie Lovett, a role filled by another great pick, Lavonne Byers. Lovett owns a pitiful meat-pie shop and she’s Sweeney’s biggest fan-girl. After teaming up, Sweeney’s retribution is indulged while Lovett’s pie shop business is invigorated. No spoilers... Byers lands all of her comedic beats, and handles her musical numbers well, kicking her voice up when the score gets high. Some of her expressions alone are worth the price of admission, and their "A Little Priest" is a gem.

Vocal standouts include Kay Love as the woeful and erratic Beggar Woman, Eileen Engel’s Johanna, who tackles the challenging phrasing well, along with her beau, Cole Gutmann as an open-faced Anthony. Mike Wells as Judge Turpin’s right-hand man, Beadle Bamford, is also impressive vocally -- his “Parlor Songs” number is a treat. The cast is rounded out by Tyler Cheatem’s flamboyant Adolfo Pirelli, Gerry Love as the unscrupulous Judge Turpin and Connor Johnson, who does a fantastic job as Toby -- an orphaned street kid who ends up hawking for Mrs. Lovett’s pie business.

Mrs. Nellie Lovett (Lavonne Byers),
Sweeney Todd (Jonathan Hey)
Adolfo Pirelli (Tyler Cheatem) and ensemble.
Photo credit: John Lamb
The ensemble sounds layered and deep, and all of those iconic big numbers like, "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” and its reprises, "God, that's Good!”, and "City on Fire”, shine. Also, huge props to Kimmie Kidd and Stephanie Merritt for adding their clear soprano voices overtop of those numbers. They're kicking' it.

Being a Sondheim show, this score is no joke. Complex music and tight lyrics make his musicals challenging. Music director, Stray Dog vet Chris Petersen, keeps his eight-piece band pretty tight, but the orchestra and cast were occasionally out of pocket, but it’s a minor quibble, sure to smooth out over the course of the run.

Sweeney Todd (Jonathan Hey)
and Mrs. Nellie Lovett (Lavonne Byers).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Rob Lippert’s set has rotating portions that hint at the bakehouse and reveal Sweeney’s upstairs tonsorial parlor, bathed in lighting designer, Tyler Duenow’s purple and pinks. Ryan Moore’s costume design suggests a dirty, 19th century London, and all of these elements, along with Stray Dog’s aisle-roaming ensemble, come together to great effect.

Under Justin Been's perfectly paced direction, if you’ve never seen Sweeney Todd onstage, this is the time to check it out. It runs at Tower Grove Abbey until April 22. Get your tickets now, because it will sell out!


SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

Music/lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Justin Been
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.
through April 22 | tickets: $20 - $25
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm, additional performance 8pm Wednesday, April 19

"City on Fire" Cast of Stray Dog’s Sweeney Todd
Photo credit: John Lamb
Cast
Anthony Hope: Cole Gutmann
Sweeney Todd: Jonathan Hey
Beggar Woman: Kay Love
Mrs. Nellie Lovett: Lavonne Byers
Johanna Barker: Eileen Engel
Judge Turpin: Gerry Love
Beadle Bamford: Mike Wells
Tobias Ragg: Connor Johnson
Adolfo Pirelli: Tyler Cheatem
Fogg: Scott Degitz-Fries

Ensemble
Angela Bubash
Ted Drury
Laura Megan Deveney
Kimmie Kidd
Stephanie Merritt
Kevin O’Brien
Belinda Quimby
Benjamin Sevilla

1979 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street artwork
Creative
Dramaturge: Sarajane Alverson
Artistic Director: Gary F. Bell
Lighting Designer: Tyler Duenow
Stage Manager: Robert M. Kapeller
Scenic Designer: Rob Lippert
Costume Designer: Ryan Moore

The Band
Clarinet: Kelly Austerman
Violin: Steve Frisbee
Trumpet: Bill Hershey
French Horn: Liz Kuba
Cello: Michaela Kuba
Music Director/Piano: Chris Petersen
Bass: M. Joshua Ryan
Percussion: Joe Winters

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Fifth Annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards • Skip Viragh Center for the Arts

The fifth anniversary of the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards is in the books, and as always, the number of talented individuals and companies in town never cease to amaze.

Congratulations to all of the nominees and award recipients! Here's the list of the 2017 St. Louis Theater Circle Award nominees with the award recipients in red.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Katie Donnelly, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Rachel Hanks, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Shannon Nara, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, Stray Dog Theatre
Nancy Nigh, boom, R-S Theatrics
Margeau Steinau, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Will Bonfiglio, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Isaiah DiLorenzo, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare
Evan Fornachon, Brighton Beach Memoirs, ACT INC.
Stephen Pilkington, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Shane Signorino, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
Nancy Anderson, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Cara Barresi, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Lindsay Gingrich, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, Stray Dog Theatre
Elizabeth Van Pelt, boom, R-S Theatrics
Maggie Wininger, Educating Rita, West End Players Guild

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
Will Bonfiglio, Buyer & Cellar, Stray Dog Theatre
Joe Hanrahan, Thom Pain (based on nothing), Midnight Company
Tom Kopp, Educating Rita, West End Players Guild
Andrew Kuhlman, boom, R-S Theatrics
Zac O’Keefe, Brighton Beach Memoirs, ACT INC.

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play
Rob Denton, A Christmas Carol, The Rep
Patrick Huber, Ivanov, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Kathy Perkins, Miss Julie, Clarissa and John, The Black Rep
Nathan Schroeder, Macbeth, St. Louis Shakespeare
John Wylie, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Ted Drury, Macbeth, St. Louis Shakespeare
Tom Mardikes, Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing, The Rep
Rick Sims, Twisted Melodies, The Black Rep
Rusty Wandall, A Christmas Carol, The Rep
Rusty Wandall, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play
Dorothy Marshall Englis, A Christmas Carol, The Rep
Dorothy Marshall Englis, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Jennifer “JC” Krajicek, Macbeth, St. Louis Shakespeare
Meredith LaBounty, Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts
Michele Friedman Siler, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Set Design in a Play
Kristin Cassidy, Burrow, YoungLiars
Kristin Cassidy, Wilson Webel, and Lucy Cashion, Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts
Cristie Johnston, American Buffalo, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Robert Mark Morgan, A Christmas Carol, The Rep
Peter and Margery Spack, Golda’s Balcony, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Kirsten De Broux, Kindertransport, Mustard Seed Theatre
Sydney Frasure, The Glass Menagerie, Upstream Theater
Anita Jackson, The St. Louis Rooming House Plays, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis
Alicia Revé Like, Miss Julie, Clarissa and John, The Black Rep
Kristin Rion, Arcadia, West End Players Guild

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Will Bonfiglio, Old Wicked Songs, New Jewish Theatre
Jason Contini, The Glass Menagerie, Upstream Theater
Leo Ramsey, American Buffalo, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
B. Weller, Ivanov, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Eric Dean White, Driving Miss Daisy, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Lavonne Byers, Golda’s Balcony, New Jewish Theatre
Michelle Hand, Macbeth, St. Louis Shakespeare
Linda Kennedy, The Glass Menagerie, Upstream Theater
Dael Orlandersmith, Until the Flood, The Rep
Rachel Tibbetts, Cuddles, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Outstanding Actor in a Drama
Charlie Barron, Richard III, St. Louis Shakespeare
J. Samuel Davis, Driving Miss Daisy, New Jewish Theatre
John Pasha, Disgraced, The Rep
Michael James Reed, I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard, Blue Rose Stage Collective
Kelvin Roston, Jr., Twisted Melodies, The Black Rep

Outstanding New Play
Nancy Bell, Remember Me, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
West Hyler, Matt Schatz, and Jack Herrick, Georama, The Rep
Dael Orlandersmith, Until the Flood, The Rep
Tammy Ryan, Molly’s Hammer, The Rep
Maya Arad Yasur, Suspended, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Achievement in Opera
Christine Brewer, Doubt, Union Avenue Opera
Andriana Chuchman, Shalimar the Clown, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Stephen Lord, Macbeth, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Neil Nelson, Tosca, Union Avenue Opera
Melody Wilson, Doubt, Union Avenue Opera

Outstanding Production of an Opera
Ariadne on Naxos, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Doubt, Union Avenue Opera
Macbeth, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
The Merry Widow, Winter Opera Saint Louis
Shalimar the Clown, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Outstanding Musical Director
Sue Goldford, American Idiot, New Line Theatre
Brad Haak, Fiddler on the Roof, The Muny
Brad Haak, Follies, The Rep
Neal Richardson, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Ben Whiteley, 42nd Street, The Muny

Outstanding Choreographer
Stephen Bourneuf, Sister Act, Stages St. Louis
Denis Jones, 42nd Street, The Muny
Dana Lewis, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Ralph Perkins, Follies, The Rep
Lara Teeter, Disney’s Beauty & the Beast, Variety Children’s Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical
Taylor Louderman, Aida, The Muny
Laurie McConnell, Company, Insight Theatre Company
Corinne Melançon, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Anna Skidis Vargas, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Stray Dog Theatre
Donna Weinsting, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical
Will Bonfiglio, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Zachary Allen Farmer, Celebration, New Line Theatre
Edward Juvier, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Terry Meddows, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Luke Steingruby, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical
Rob Denton, 42nd Street, The Muny
Tyler Duenow, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show, Stray Dog Theatre
John Lasiter, Follies, The Rep
Sean M. Savoie, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Michael Sullivan, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical (tie)
Luke Cantarella, Follies, The Rep
Dunsi Dai, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Robert Mark Morgan, The Wizard of Oz, The Muny
Scott C. Neale, Georama, The Rep
Peter and Margery Spack, Yentl, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical
Amy Clark, Follies, The Rep
Jennifer “JC” Krajicek, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Andrea Lauer, 42nd Street, The Muny
Brad Musgrove, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Margaret E. Weedon, Georama, The Rep

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Shanara Gabrielle, Yentl, New Jewish Theatre
Debby Lennon, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Sarah Porter, Tell Me on a Sunday, New Line Theatre
Jonalyn Saxer, 42nd Street, The Muny
Emily Skinner, Follies, The Rep

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Michael Baird, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Stray Dog Theatre
Zachary Allen Farmer, Atomic, New Line Theatre
Corey Fraine, Bat Boy: The Musical, Stray Dog Theatre
Adam Heller, Follies, The Rep
David Schmittou, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy
As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
The Dispute: A Spectacle for Lovers and Fighters, YoungLiars
The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Remember Me, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama
Arcadia, West End Players Guild
Manifest|Destiny, West End Players Guild
Miss Julie, Clarissa and John, The Black Rep
The St. Louis Rooming House Plays, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis
Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical
42nd Street, The Muny
The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Follies, The Rep
Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Sister Act, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Director of a Comedy (tie)
Gary F. Bell, Buyer & Cellar, Stray Dog Theatre
Rick Dildine, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Chuck Harper, The Dispute: A Spectacle for Lovers and Fighters, YoungLiars
Donna Northcott, The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare
Ellie Schwetye, As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Outstanding Director of a Drama
Lucy Cashion, Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts
John Contini, American Buffalo, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Joe Hanrahan, Cuddles, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Tim Ocel, Old Wicked Songs, New Jewish Theatre
Wayne Salomon, Three Tall Women, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Outstanding Director of a Musical
Justin Been, Bat Boy: The Musical, Stray Dog Theatre
Michael Hamilton, The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Denis Jones, 42nd Street, The Muny
Annamaria Pileggi, Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions
Rob Ruggiero, Follies, The Rep

Outstanding Production of a Comedy
As You Like It, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Buyer & Cellar, Stray Dog Theatre
The Dispute: A Spectacle for Lovers and Fighters, YoungLiars
The Heir Apparent, St. Louis Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Drama
American Buffalo, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Disgraced, The Rep
The Glass Menagerie, Upstream Theater
Old Wicked Songs, New Jewish Theatre
Trash Macbeth, Equally Represented Arts

Outstanding Production of a Musical
42nd Street, The Muny
The Drowsy Chaperone, Stages St. Louis
Follies, The Rep
Georama, The Rep
Grey Gardens, Max & Louie Productions

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