• Heather Chrisler

SWEENEY is great for a thrill, a laugh, and some fantastic Sondheim

Updated: Sep 17



Sweeney Todd, to my mind, is definitely a contender for best Sondheim. It has competition for sure. It might not be as moving as Into the Woods, or possess the ethereal beauty of A Little Night Music. But you must admit that every song in Sweeney Todd is a straight-up banger. Listening to that music is like listening to a greatest hits album, every time the actors begin a new number the audience buzzes, “oh yeah, I love this one.”


I mean, Sweeney Todd is just hit after hit after hit. It’s wild to think that one musical contains “Johanna,” “Pretty Women,” “A Little Priest,” “God, That's Good,” and “Not While I’m Around,” all in one evening (Nick Sula’s Music Direction is flawless).


Plus, it’s fun as hell. We’re moving into Spooky Season after all, and everyone wants a demon barber around, right?


The folks over at Kokandy are doing a bang-up job of Sweeney Todd. It’s in the downstairs theater of The Chopin, for starters, a space that is just as scrappy and weird as the musical itself, and it’s hard to imagine a better place for it.


A lot of credit for the disquieting atmosphere of the show goes to G “Max” Maxin IV whose lighting design drips eerily through ample amounts of London Fog (shout-out to whoever said, “I need a lot of smoke in this show,” probably director Derek Van Barham, well done). His lighting design flips effortlessly from creepy, to intense, to exciting, and somehow keeps us between a dance club and Victorian Cheapside.


Also, really fun work by Rachel Sypniewski as costume designer. She brings a great rag-tag vibe to her costumes. They’re both reminiscent of Victorian riff-raff, and the 1980s London punk-scene. Add the very fun makeup going on in this show, and she’s got a popping design scheme.

Kevin Webb as Sweeney Todd is fantastic. That role demands so much energy. The fact that he is sustaining that level of emotional drive, and musical prowess for nearly three hours is so incredible.


Chamaya Moody is a standout performance of the piece as Johanna. She is both stunningly beautiful and sings like an angel.


There are devilishly joyful performances by Patrick O’Keefe as Tobias Rigg and Christopher Johnson as Judge Turpin.


Sweeney Todd wouldn’t be what it is without its ensemble, and they’re all doing great work, too, with haunting voices and weird movement. Choreography by Derek Van Barham literally brings dead men to life in this production, it’s awesome.


As usual, Mrs. Lovett steals the show. Caitlin Jackson’s dry sense of humor, and insatiable greed and lust are a delight to watch.


The show is sporting some visually sensational theatricality. Many of the props are mimed or in a non-literal space. The blood effects work the best, in my opinion. Don’t worry, there’s no need for splash seats in this show because none of the blood is liquid. Instead, the blood effects are a surprising Halloween treat. I was so surprised by one, in fact, that I gasped and then burst out

laughing.

Go see the show, it’s great for a thrill, a laugh, a scare, and some truly fantastic Sondheim.

Location: The Chopin Theatre (Studio), 1543 W Division St. in Chicago

Regular run: Saturday, September 17 – Sunday, November 6, 2022

Curtain Times: Wednesday, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 pm; Sundays at 5 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Wednesday, October 5.

Industry Night; Monday, October 24 at 7 pm

Tickets: Regular run $40. Students/senior $30. There will be a limited number of $15 tickets available for students and artists for each performance. Tickets are now on sale at bit.ly/SweeneyChicago.

For more reviews visit TheatreInChicago.

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