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vancouverplays review


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—Fighting Chance Productions Proudly Presents Sweeney Todd

Music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by Hugh Wheeler
Fighting Chance Productions
Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery St.
Oct. 13-30
604-224-8007 ext 3 or

Ryan Mooney’s non-Equity company, Fighting Chance Productions, has become a force to be reckoned with in the city’s burgeoning musical theatre scene.  In his latest outing Mooney directs an ambitious production of Stephen Sondheim’s rousing but difficult Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street with substantial success.  I can’t resist the inevitable pun: it’s a bloody great show.

Mooney jams 17 performers and a seven-piece band into the intimate confines of Jericho Arts Centre.  And except for the fact that some of the unmiked singers are sometimes drowned out by the music, it’s a very good fit.  Amanda Larder’s versatile low-tech set of scaffolding on wheels requires an awful lot of manual labour from the cast as it’s continually turned around to present different views of Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop, but it does the job.  Let me get this out of the way here, too: there’s quite a bit of wooden acting and a singer or two whose voices ought to be better.  But these prove relatively minor issues in the overall scheme of things.

Alex McMorran makes a very fine Sweeney, his eyes glinting with madness as he cuts throats to revenge the loss of his wife and his unjust imprisonment.  His voice lacks the bottom end required for some of Sweeney’s songs but McMorran makes up for that with a powerful, dramatic delivery, especially attuned to lyrics like these: “There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit and it’s filled with people who are filled with shit!” A great match for him is Cathy Wilmot’s superb Mrs. Lovett, who regularly threatens to steal the show.  Their duet at the end of the second act in one of Sondheim’s classic songs is an absolute killer as they pun on the different kinds of meat pies they make from Sweeney’s victims.  Chris Harvey and Krista Gibbard, playing the young lovers, have gorgeous voices, Eric Alexander Steel overacts enjoyably as the mountebank Pirelli, and Sabrina Prada’s Beggar Woman provides some nice melodramatic moments.

Kudos to musical director Vashti Fairbairn for keeping on top of Sondheim’s difficult score and to the whole cast and crew of this very fine show.

Jerry Wasserman