Not Really a Concert But Very Good: “Sweeney Todd” at CRT at UConn

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Terrence Mann and Liz Larsen. Photo by Gerry Goodstein

By Karen Isaacs

 Have you seen Sweeney Todd?

Do you love Sweeney Todd?

Do you have some free time?

If the answer is “Yes”—then make plans to see the production of this classic musical at the Nutmeg Summer Series of the Connecticut Repertory Theater on the UConn campus in Storrs.

It only runs through July 1.

This production is billed as “a musical thriller in concert” but it really is a small scale production. When I think of concert versions of musicals, I think of little staging, sets or costumes and minimal movement.

This concert version features scenic design by Tim Brown, lighting by Alan C. Edwards, sound by Michael Vincent Skinner – all excellent. Plus great costumes by Christina Lorraine Bullard. Even the make up is terrific.

When you enter the theater you see a row of microphones on stands; what you might expect from a concert version. But after the opening, the microphones disappear.

Kudos must go to director Peter Flynn for his handling of the staging – the orchestra is on stage – and integrating students into a production that features many award winning professionals. It seems like Artistic Director Terrence Mann (a well-known Broadway performer) may have called in some chits.

Mann plays Sweeney, the barber who returns after 15 years and seeks revenge first on Judge Turpin and then on everyone for the injustice done to him, his wife and daughter. He is excellent. He handles the difficult score smoothly; perhaps a little overly emotional.

But he is abetted by Tony nominee Liz Larsen as Mrs. Lovett who becomes his comrade in arms. She won’t make you forget Angela Lansbury, but she is very good.

Ed Dixon, who just won awards for his solo show about actor George Rose, plays the villain of the piece, Judge Turpin.

But the four students who play major roles are all excellent. I particularly liked Lu DeJesus who plays the Beadle, Turpin’s henchman. Vocally he is very strong. But his overall performance is also very good. The same can be said for Hugh Entrekin as Anthony Hope (his singing, tops his acting), Kenneth Galm as Tobias, Nicholas Gonzalez as Pirelli and Emilie Kouatchou as Emilie.

Get to see Sweeney Todd before it closes. For tickets visit Connecticut Rep or call 860-486-2113.

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