Glenwood Vaudeville Revue tackles ‘Sweeney Todd’
UPDATE: Originally scheduled to open Friday, “Sweeney Todd” will wait till Saturday because of a technical problem.
Not many venues would dare pair a meat pie dinner with a performance of “Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” but that’s precisely what the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue is doing with its debut musical.
With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “Sweeney Todd” tells the story of an ousted barber in 19th century London and his revenge on the scheming judge who exiled him. He joins forces with the failing pie shop proprietress and the two introduce a new, carnal ingredient to Lovett’s meat pies that sends the people of London straight to the shop — and new victims to the barber chair.
It’s a thrilling but challenging piece that vaudeville director John Goss has wanted to tackle for years.
“It’s my favorite musical. There’s so much to it. It delves into the righteousness of the powerful, and the revenge of the abused,” he said. “I didn’t know if I could actually do it here, but I hoped there would be time and circumstances that would allow it to happen.”
The stars finally aligned during a break, conveniently timed around Halloween, in the season. Goss noted that it wouldn’t be possible without Jonathan Gorst to conduct and a talented cast from major to minor roles.
“It is, in my opinion, the hardest musical you could ever try to learn,” he observed. “The meters, the rhythms, the notes, the timings. … I feel like Sondheim put some of this show together just to mess with the performers.”
The leads are undaunted.
“This is a dream role,” said Nina Gabianelli, who plays Mrs. Lovett. “It’s a wildly exciting piece of theatre.”
She’s working hard to portray the depth she believes the character deserves.
“You have to care about these people,” she said. “You can’t have all scary evil. You have to have the humor in order for this to work. We want the audience to like us and feel for us and justify what we’re doing.”
In that respect, Bob Moore is a perfect choice for the title character.
“The bulk of my career, it seems like I’m cast in more likable and lovable characters,” he observed. “One of the wonderful things about being an actor is getting a chance to explore those different facets of humanity. I think we have all felt in our lives, at some time or another, a sense that we have been wronged and a desire for revenge.”
While the themes might be universal, the show’s edgy, gutsy approach is recommended for mature audiences only, and anyone younger than 18 should be accompanied by an adult.
“You can do watered down versions of ‘Sweeney Todd,’ but I didn’t want to do that,” Goss said. “We don’t have room for giant sets and backdrops, but we’re doing every number, every scene, every character.”
Goss sees the musical’s combination of dark material and difficulty as a chance to prove that the Vaudeville can tackle serious theater.
“I want to make a statement to the other theatres in the valley and our peers that we can do stuff like this,” he said. “If it goes well, it’s feasible that we could absolutely do a show like this once a year.”
“Sweeney Todd” runs Oct. 21, 22, 28, 29 and 30 and Nov. 3, 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m., while doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a la carte dinner and drinks. Other cast members include Patrick Holloran, Lance Schober, Alex Trosper, Micha Schoepe, Franz C. Alderfer, Tony Di Meglio, Sheri Brinker, John Goss, Lisa Langer, Becky Levin, Tamela Kenning and Travis Lane McDiffett.
Tickets are $25 and reservations are recommended at 970-945-9699 or gvrshow.com.
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