Lyric Stage Company's 'Sweeney Todd' is solid but not exceptional

While there is much to enjoy about "Sweeney Todd" at Lyric Stage, it never really captures the horror and humor that makes “Sweeney” such a classic.

Sweeney Todd at Lyric Stage Company. Credit: Mark S. Howard Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett with their weapons of choice.
Credit: Mark S. Howard

 

After closing their last season with a highly-acclaimed, tremendously successful production of “Into the Woods,” expectations were high for the Lyric Stage Company’s latest production, “Sweeney Todd.” Back-to-back Sondheim seemed like a win-win for the Lyric as they took on the notorious barber of Fleet Street.

 

 

While there is much to enjoy about the darkly comic musical, it lacks the wow factor of its predecessor, never really capturing the horror and humor that makes “Sweeney” such a classic.

 

Part of the problem is that Sweeney Todd himself (Christopher Chew) never feels angry or diabolical enough to exact such violent revenge. As his co-conspirator Mrs. Lovett, Amelia Broome also lacks many of the traits that make her character such a brilliant juxtaposition of daffy and dark.

The duo is often overpowered by the orchestra and both feel a little uncertain during “Have a Little Priest.” Broome also misses her mark with a fairly staid rendition of “By the Sea,” a number in which Mrs. Lovett should be vamping it up, getting her sexy on to woo Sweeney.

The barber chair that features prominently in act two is also problematic. Ideally, it would operate with Guillotine-like precision, inducing bouts of uproarious laughter and groans of disbelieving horror as Todd meticulously dispenses with anyone who stands in his way. This chair feels like a prototype not ready for action, as the actors approach the clunky setup with great trepidation.

Despite its problems, the production boasts exceptional, nearly show-stealing performances by Phil Tayler as dim-witted Tobias Ragg and Lisa Yuen as the Beggar Woman. The ensemble also hits their collective mark with strong, spirited vocals and a wonderful sense of the dark, funny, ghastly tale of “Sweeney Todd.”

If only Mr. Todd and Mrs. Lovett were that seductive.

If you go
"Sweeney Todd"
Through October 11
Lyric Stage
140 Clarendon St., Boston
$25 - $70
617-585-5678
www.lyricstage.com

 
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