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Into Sweeney Todd’s Woods

| November 4, 2016

Into Sweeney Todd’s Woods

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, October 31, 2016

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

into-sweeney-todds-woods-cabaret-scenes-magazine_212Take a collection of some of the best talent in town, pair them with some of Stephen Sondheim’s spookiest music, let them loose on Halloween night, and the result is a mad, macabre celebration of unfettered fun. Back for a fourth year to celebrate All Hallows Eve, director and host Phil Geoffrey Bond clad his performers in shades of black and chose appropriately sinister music from Into the Woods and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Book-ending the terror tour of song was the Marquee Five, a quintet of energetic and hammily maniacal singers whose “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” opener and the closer, “Ever After” (Into the Woods), were witty arrangements of sharp harmonies and vocalese. Special guests were a feature of the eerie evening, with one, Claybourne Elder, wickedly singing “Hello, Little Girl” (Into the Woods), and with Harris Doran, a beautifully torturous “Agony” (Into the Woods). With Lucia Spina, Elder delivered a comically horrifying “A Little Priest” (Sweeney Todd) and the reflective “Moments in the Woods” (Into the Woods). Spina is a remarkably expressive and exciting presence who added just the right amount of spine-tingling thrills to “The Witch’s Rap” (Into the Woods). Sarah Rice (Sweeney Todd’s original Johanna) was another special guest, who applied her beautiful, resonant operatic soprano to “On the Steps of the Palace” (Into the Woods) andGreenfinch & Linnet Bird” (Sweeney Todd). Special guest Pamela Winslow Kashani (Into the Woods’ original Rapunzel) aced “Our Little World” (Into the Woods).

The genius of Sondheim has been much lauded, but nowhere is it more apparent than in his philosophical lyrics for the mythic and archetypal stories of Into the Woods. If there’d been even one doubt at the top of the show, by several songs in, the hypothesis was proven. Bringing more of that show’s lyrics to life were Victoria Elizabeth Cook with “I Know Things Now,” Scott Coulter with “Giants in the Sky” and “No One Is Alone,” and Julie Reyburn with “Stay with Me” and a prize gem of the Sondheim crown, “Children Will Listen.” The gloriously maniacal Rob Maitner was on hand for wacky comedy, singing “The Worst Pies in London” (Sweeney Todd) and “Your Fault” (Into the Woods). Courter Simmons recounted the creepy tale of “Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir” (Sweeney Todd), while last, but not least, T. Oliver Reid brought the counterpoint of sweetness and light to the madfest with excellently modulated and sensitively rendered vocalizations on “Johanna” (Sweeney Todd) and “No More” (Into the Woods). Musical Director Joe Goodrich kept up an accomplished, if hair-raising pace on the piano, to which Tom Hubbard on the bass and Bruno Pena with violin provided mellifluous string accompaniment.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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