Tooting Arts Club 's "Sweeney Todd"

Started by DiveMilw, Jul 24, 2017, 09:11 AM

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I asked this on FB but thought I'd start a thread in case those who have seen it wish to share their thoughts about the show in general.  I'm asking specifically about the production at the Barrow Street Theater where it seems to have settled in for a nice long run but don't limit yourself to that venue.  

Anyone know just how partial the 'partial view' seats are? And just how good is the pie?
I no longer long for the old view!

Chris L

But us, old friend,
What's to discuss, old friend?


I don't know about Panaro in the part...Norm was great and so was Carolee.

The pie was delicious.

What I didn't like was the compromised staging.  Still...a lotta good performances.


^  That.  Everything Bobster just said. Especially about the pie. ;D  (Also, two months into the run, pastry chef Bill Yosses was at the performance I saw, dishing out his delectable creations alongside several assistants!)

I should've checked out the partial-view situation when I was there, but I'm afraid I didn't.  The seating chart doesn't offer any specific sense of why those seats would be partial-view, and I don't recall noticing any obvious architectural obstructions in the space, but those second-row mezz seats might be a little dicey just because of how far "downstage" (well into the audience) the performers come much of the time. There's only one brief instance (that I recall) of action happening upstairs, and it was lost to many of us on floor level -- but I can imagine that it was a deserved consolation for the partial-view folks up there who may have been missing considerably more throughout the rest of the evening.  When I ordered tickets last December, the price gap between partial-view and full-view seats alone seemed sufficient to scare me off of the former.  (Also, they were a Christmas present -- to my mom, who introduced me to Sweeney as a kid, and thence to SJS's other works -- so it would've been pretty ungrateful for me not to have sprung for good seats when I could finally afford them).

I'd be kinda curious to see the show from the front row of the mezzanine, however.


Shortly after ordering those tickets last winter, I joked that the next NYC revival of Sweeney would be brought to us by Theatre For One as an abridged 30-minute musical monologue performed inside a retrofitted vintage food-truck by a single actor/musician accompanying him- or herself on the penny whistle while slinging reheated bangers & mash and simulating self-harm with a disposable safety razor and a squeeze-bottle of red sauce.  The Tooting Arts production is fun, but it doesn't assuage my creeping sense that a moratorium on miniaturized Sweeneys is (past?) due.

Its environmental setting is impressive enough, at Barrow Street, as a pure feat of architectural appropriation/duplication.  Designer Simon Kenny goes so far as to hide Amy Mae's tiny but effectively-deployed lighting plot entirely inside the grubby walls and ceiling of his audience-enveloping "Harrington's" replica, concealed behind strategically-placed ventilation grilles and such -- so that there's not a single visible theatrical lighting instrument, nor a trace of stage equipment or electrical cable, to mar the illusion of being inside a working, and workaday, pie shop.

But as with The Great Comet, the very impressiveness of the transplant has the unintended side effect of making the production itself feel a bit theme-parky and fish-out-of-waterish.  I actually saw Sweeney and Great Comet within a few days of each other in May, and both struck me as charming stunts which probably made more aesthetic sense in their scrappy original digs where, without such claim as Major Theatrical Events meriting substantial architectural renovation (and premium ticket pricing), they may nevertheless have been wildly-memorable evenings.  Artistically speaking, I'm just not sure the considerable cost of serving them up, de luxe, to larger and more-mainstream audiences was necessarily money or effort well-spent.  Sleep No More and its ilk notwithstanding, even the most wondrously immersive environment -- whether as breathtakingly opulent as TGC's at the Imperial or as meticulously faux-scruffy as Sweeney's at Barrow Street -- does not a show make.  And while both productions are carried up to a point by their remarkably hard-working casts (certainly neither show could be called a dull night out), their respective shortcomings -- Sweeney's "compromised" staging, to borrow @Bobster's apt term; and TGC's glib, sophomoric libretto -- are not minor.


I did enjoy ...The Great Comet of 1814 at the Imperial but do admit that I did love the more intimate production when it was a few doors down (where my old apartment was before they tore the building down!   :'(  ),