Theo Ubique presents SWEENEY TODD Right in Mrs. Lovett’s Pie Shop
Stephen Sondheim’s dark musical comedy rose again for Chicago audiences to enjoy. This time without a curtain. Directed by Fred Anzevino and Courtney Crouse, the No Exit Café was transformed into the seedy-establishment-turned-morosely-successful-eatery of Mrs. Lovett, played by the powerful Jacquelyne Jones. Audience members were treated to table and bar service by the characters before the performance began, with seating throughout the stage…or no, better yet, the stage was set throughout the entire room.
The café was dark, lightened a bit by an ever-present reddish glow and “smoke,” with a splash of blood every now and then!
Table candles provided an air of eerie voyeurism as the characters planted themselves throughout the 55-seat theatre/café/meat pie shop. Philip Torre reigned supreme as the ever-tortured and single-focused demon barber, in his return from exile to his sometimes utilitarian, sometimes impassioned dispatching of his own brand of justice and retribution with an amazing bass strength.
SWEENEY TODD Shows the Power of the Human Voice, Unplugged!
Once again, a small local company in Chicago mounts the rostrum of great theatre! Theo Ubique, in its final book musical performances to be held at the No Exit Café, has set itself a high standard and succeeded. The quality of singing (very little electronic amplification) and acting in the troupe was consistent throughout the performance. The dual villainy of the beadle and the judge, played by Kevin Webb and John Leen respectively, bookended the source of Todd’s tragedy, along with the innocent Johanna (Cecilia Iole), his daughter, and Anthony, her love (Nathan Carroll). These four actors helped spin the tension tightly and created a suffocatingly appropriate mood throughout the play.
Megan Elk as the Beggar Lady, provided the warnings with heart-breaking pathos, seer-like, and a glimpse into the deeper tragedy of the story. The character of Pirelli, played strongly by Ryan Armstrong performed the sinister “Italian” that would make Vito Scotti proud. Frankie Leo Bennett let loose his talent in the role of the ubiquitous Toby, street urchin turned loving child turned hapless accomplice turned broken savior.
The ensemble, comprised of Grant Brown, Missy Wise, Trevor Vanderzee, and Hope Elizabeth Schafer, added to the complete “surround sound” of high-quality vocal talent and stage presence. With choreography and musical direction by James Beaudry and Jeremy Ramey, respectively, this presentation of SWEENEY TODD will appeal to audiences who appreciate powerful human talent over so much flash and glitter. Props to those who worked on the scenes, lighting and props!
This play is now added to the Picture This Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO where it will remain until the end of the run.
Read reviews of other performances of SWEENEY TODD:
No Exit Café
6970 N. Glenwood Ave.
Thru April 29th
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 7:00 pm
Thursdays and Sundays, $39
Fridays and Saturdays, $44
Student and Senior $5.00 discounts on regular run prices
Dinner (optional) is $25 Reservations required
Visit the Theo Ubique Theater website.
Joseph Anthony Rulli is a transplanted Hoosier, living in Chicago since the fall of 2006. A 1987 graduate of the University of Notre Dame (BA, History) and a 1992 graduate of St. Meinrad School of Theology (MDiv) he taught Social Studies, Religion, Philosophy and History at the high school level. He began writing as a career upon his arrival to his second city and has had two short stories published, a stage play performed, an electronic tour book published online and The Chicago Haymarket Affair (History Press/Arcadia Publishing, 2016) his first print book.