On Friday night, I had an opportunity to watch a performance of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street that was put on by the Legacy High School theater department! Now, I go and watch the spring musical every year at Legacy High School, and I have enjoyed every single show. In the last five years, I have been able to experience Beauty and the Beast, All Shook Up, Aida, Legally Blonde, and then Sweeney Todd this year. I mist that this year’s musical ranked up there with one of the best that I have seen out of Legacy!
One of the first things that I have to recognize about this musical was the set designs and props that were utilized throughout. Almost the entire musical took place in Mrs. Lovett’s meat pie shop in London, with Sweeney Todd’s barber shop on top, and the scene of a small town behind this. Actually, for this performance, a professional theater allowed Legacy to borrow some of their sets and props, including the chair that Todd utilizes to send his victims through a chute down to the basement of the meat pie shop. This prop, and all of the sets, not only served their purpose wonderfully, but they looked amazing. All of it added to the overall experience of the show!
I will give a brief overview of the plot of the musical, but I do have to warn everybody reading this that if you do not know, this story is dark and gory. That is actually what I liked about it, but I know not everybody feels the same way!
The musical begins with Sweeney Todd and a man named Anthony arriving on the streets of London. Todd, whose real name is Benjamin Barker, has just returned to London after being banned to Australia on false charges by the evil judge in town, whose primary intent for his sadistic ruling was to take advantage of Todd’s beautiful wife. Todd is now back to rescue his wife, Lucy, and to exact revenge on the judge who robbed him of his happiness. Upon arrival, Sweeney Todd meets Mrs. Lovett, who runs a meat pie shop in town. However, she claims that her pies are “the worst pies in london” because of the current outrageous price of meat. It turns out that she knew Sweeney Todd when he was Benjamin Barker, and knew his wife, who eventually submitted to drinking poison after being taken advantage of by the cruel judge. She also tells Todd that she has held onto his barber tools these fifteen long years in case he ever came back to London. Therefore, Todd has the perfect tools to take up residency again above Mrs. Lovett’s meat pie shop with his own barber shop, which he will now use in his plot to murder the judge for his wrongdoings. Later on in the story, Todd decides that every man deserves to die for their wickedness, and so he utilizes the cover of his profession of a barber to murder men throughout the town. Mrs. Lovett is in on this plan, and she takes the bodies of Todd’s victims and bakes them into her own meat pies, which soon become the most popular meat pies in London.
There is so, so much more to this musical than I have written for you here, but this plotline between Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett was my favorite part of the story, and so that is what I have chosen to focus on. There is another plot between the characters of Johanna and Anthony, but I won’t get into that here. If you want to read the entire plot, I encourage you to read the IMDB plot overview for the film version. Or, you can always watch the Tim Burton movie musical on Netflix!
This was my first time ever seeing the musical, so I am going to provide commentary on my experience based on the musical itself and the specific performance at Legacy High School.
The first thing that I have to say about the musical is that I actually wish it had been a play instead. I know, of course, that the original version of the story is a musical, so Legacy High School had no control over this. I found that my least favorite part of the musical was the actual music! While the storyline is odd and intriguing (although very dark at times), the music that went along with it was not catchy at all. Last year’s musical was Legally Blonde, and the music in this performance was mostly rhythmic and upbeat, and Sweeney Todd featured slower music that did not follow a specific rhythm that you could tap your foot too. The music wasn’t inherently bad because of this, nor was it performed badly, but this was something that I disliked about the musical as a whole.
With that being said, I do have to mention that the musical talent this year was impeccable. It typically is, but the casting for this show was particularly spot-on. The voice talent this year was strong all-around, and there were no singers that I felt really detracted from my overall experience at the performance.
Now, with that being said, Maya Claridge performing as Mrs. Lovett completely stole the show. I have heard Maya sing before in previous choir performances at Legacy, so I knew going into Sweeney Todd that she was going to do a magnificent job, but even being prepared for this, she absolutely blew me away! Her voice was strong, her accent was perfect, and her performance as a deranged character posing as a woman just going about her business and selling meat pies was believable (and at times, hilarious). She provided the perfect contrast to the all-too serious and grave Sweeney Todd, played by Jacob Maki. And did I mention that these two students are a sophomore and a junior, respectively? That means that not only did they put on a fantastic show this year, but they have
many more opportunities in the future to showcase their talents. It also bears mentioning that both Claridge and Maki earned a standing ovation at the end their performance. Well deserved, in my opinion!
After Legally Blonde, I truly believe that this performance of Sweeney Todd was one of Legacy High School’s best musicals yet. Even saying that, I might be a little biased towards Legally Blonde, though, because my best friend Megan Martin was stunning as Elle Woods.
Watching this musical at Legacy definitely makes me want to watch the movie version now on Netflix to compare and to experience the story again! Overall, Sweeney Todd was a neat story to be immersed in, even if the plot is slightly disturbing. I would love to see it play out on the big screen!
Although performances of Legacy High School’s version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street have ended, I encourage anybody in the area to come out and see at least one musical put on by the school. The theater director, Karen Stacks, does an incredible job each year (I should know—I have watched all of her plays and musicals, and have even taken part in one), and there is an endless supply of talent within the student body of Legacy.
Did any local high schools around you but on a big performance this year? If so, what was it? Tell me your favorite musical to watch down below…
And Don’t Forget to Make It Meghan!