CSU music faculty leads rendition of ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’

Claire Oliver

Colorado State University’s Summer Conducting Seminar students had a chance to showcase their abilities in their final concert conducted on July 21.

The conducting students teamed with Opera Fort Collins apprentice artists to produce Stephen Sondheim’s gothic classic, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” CSU music professor Patty Goble portrayed Mrs. Lovett and CSU director of Orchestras, Wes Kenney played the title role of the demon barber.

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The production was a concert musical with no set or costumes, the main focus being on the composition and the lyrical integrity of the music. While the main characters shared microphones downstage, the choir was set behind them in risers.

Goble truly showed her chops as an experienced Broadway performer. Goble’s Mrs. Lovett was charming and sweet and equally diabolical. Despite the lack of set and the use of scripts on stage, Goble managed to capture Lovett in an effective and entertaining way. Her wonderful singing ability lent itself very well to the character. She stood out as the most experienced singer of the group and was an instant scene stealer.

Kenney on the other hand, despite being an accomplished singer, was not as impressive in the title role. Kenney’s characterization of Sweeney Todd was not there, and his delayed reactions to the main plot points, including the several on-stage murders, took the audience out of the action. 

Kenney was also the only actor on stage not to dub a British accent for his role. Considering that the story takes place on Fleet Street in the heart of London, it would make sense for the actors to adopt some style of British accent.  Hearing an American accent mixed in with the variety of British accents was a huge distraction from the story.

Arthur Beutel, who plays the lovestruck Anthony Hope, was another scene-stealer in the show. Beutel showed genuine passion and devotion during the entire performance and his acting abilities were supplemented by a lovely tenor which resonated throughout the entire performance hall.  He was, by far, the best male actor on stage and I enjoyed watching his approach to Hope’s character.

Upcoming shows at the Griffin Concert Hall and the UCA are available at uca.colostate.edu

 

This particular musical depends on several instances of flashback, and without a set, it was difficult to define these moments in the show, resulting in some of the plot being lost.  Since I have been a fan of the stage musical, the soundtrack and the popular Hollywood film, I was familiar with the plot. For those who had not seen or heard the musical before, the main shocking twists in the plot could easily have been missed.

While traditional musical concerts do not use a set and the use of one in this instance was not completely necessary, some form of action or choreography during numbers such as, “Poor Thing,” would have helped audiences to understand Todd’s background and why he was so set on revenge as well as help to reveal why the ending is so tragic and evil.

Overall, the show was impressive for only having three rehearsals before the final performance. Goble and Beutel carried the show and were the most fun to watch. The conducting students did an excellent job with the complex music and showed real promise. 

Collegian Arts and Culture Editor Claire Oliver can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @claire_oliver27. 

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