Final thoughts on Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

by Lynn on June 26, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Some final words on the Talk is Free Theatre (TIFT) Production of Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

My original review of this production is here:

We have a lot of wonderful theatre in Toronto at the moment, vibrant, creative, bracing. But the TIFT production of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (on until July 3) has everybody buzzing who has seen it. It’s sold out with good reason. This small production is the theatre event of the moment. Bravo to Talk is Free CEO Arkady Spivak for working his magic to bring this production to Toronto.

I intended to see the opening, June 10, but was stuck on the tarmac at Pearson Airport by customs who were overwhelmed by travelers, when I returned from England, so I saw the June 11 performance.

I love this musical and that production I saw on June 11 was brilliant.  I knew I would want to see it again, looking for loopholes, so I bought a ticket a month ago (I knew tickets would be scarce) and saw the Friday, June 24 production. Loopholes? There were none, just a stunning production directed by Mitchell Cushman who thought out every single second that realized Stephen Sondheim’s gripping, heartbreaking musical.

It’s playing in a Church on Gerrard Street East and every section that is used illuminates moments, scenes, ideas and Sondheim’s beautiful score. You look in the eyes of every single character, including a mysterious addition, who are as close as the person sitting next to you. Their stares are urgent and gripping. As Sweeney Todd, Michael Torontow is haunted again, possessed with a blazing hot need for revenge. Glynis Ranney as Mrs. Lovett is both adorable, charming and scary. As the Beggar Woman, Gabi Epstein is unhinged, watchful, knowing but so overwhelmed with despair that it’s hidden. Cyrus Lane as Judge Turpin is frightening because he is seductively charming and yet evil. Every performance seemed richer to me, deeper and so committed when I saw it Friday.

The musicians work like crazy shifting locations from floor to floor. But the unsung heroes are the front of house staff: Matthew McQuarrie-Cottle, Claire Allen and Joshua Kilimnik. Not only do they check us in, give us water, see that we wear masks and maneuver the space safely and efficiently, they also tend to those people who need extra help with accessibility. They personally help each person, who has alerted them, to the next site in the production, chairs are saved for these folks in various scenes and every effort is made to ensure that people who need a bit of extra time are at the next scene in time. They are cheerful, efficient, helpful, respectful and one of the many reasons that Talk Is Free Theatre is one of the best theatre companies in this province.

What a gift Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street is and what a glorious company Talk Is Free Theatre is.  

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