Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Still Percolating

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Still Percolating

Article excerpt

Compact Detroit Sweeney is in your face

After seeing Sweeney Todd at the Abreact Performance Space, I finally realized why Stephen Sondheim's very dark musical never feels as dark as it is. Sure, it's about vengeance exacted by killing people and grinding them up into meat pies - but we root for vengeful, murderous Sweeney, and Sondheim seasons his songs with elegant wit (e.g., "shepherd's pie peppered with actual shepherd"). But that's not the reason.

With that catchy title tune hopping in my head ("Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd ..."), I figured it out. If that melody turns right instead of left it's "The Teddy Bears' Picnic" ("If you go down in the woods today ..."). Well, a good production of Sweeney Todd will keep percolating after the final bows, and Thomas Hoagland's staging at the Abreact is a good one.

If the performance I saw is typical, don't expect the singers to hit every note. Get over it. The performers draw us into their world, and that's more important. (Note: The vocalist with the most potential, Dawn Slaski, as the pie-baking Mrs. Lovett, had laryngitis on opening weekend.) The full-chorus numbers are particularly strong and effective, and the singers fare much better as actors. The mise-en-scène is terrific, and the Abreact's cozy confines put the entire company almost in your face.

Now, a few words about the coolest theater in Detroit. It's in some guy's loft, it's dark, it's up an improbably long flight of stairs, they'll serve you coffee at their kitchen counter and it's all free. They welcome donations. There is no suggested amount, so may I suggest that you pay more than you would to see a Saturday night movie (not a bargain matinee). …

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