Saturday, May 2, 2015

Sweeny Todd, by Stephen Sondheim, Vancouver Opera at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre

I’ve seen several Sweeny Todd’s but this Sweeny Todd by the Vancouver Opera is by far the best.  Stephen Sondheim’s music is rockstar sensational and Jonathan Darlington’s musical direction is genius.  I loved Darlington’s opening performance the best.  Greer Grimsley, bass baritone, from New Orleans, plays Sweeny Todd and his performance alone was worth coming for. I’ve never heard such an incredible voice so perfect for this role.  That said, Luretta Bybee playing the pie lady Levitt  was so enjoyable to listen to and delightfully comedic.
Tenor Rocco Rupolo was equally a delight as the love struck sailor singing his heart out for Johanna Barker, played by soprano Caitlin Wood. I thought her first number ’shrill’ only to fall completely in love with her voice as it grew richer and warmer throughout the production.  The whole musical ensemble grew together this way crescendoing to a great finale.
Pascal Charbonneau’s tenor, as he played  Tobias was alive with character. I loved Karen Ydenberg’s soprano beggar woman performance.  David Curry, tenor, played Adolfo Pirelli hilariously and had an amazing voice that filled the hall with laughter.    Baritone Doug McNaughton played the evil judge so well that he really irritated me despite his masterful voice. Michael Barrett, tenor, played the horrid Beadle to vocal perfection.  Zacchary Reed Baritone sang immensely well in the part of Jonas Fogg.  I loved all the voices and all the costumes and all the acting and the ingenious set.
To a non opera going friend I said, Greer Grimsley’s voice is to opera what Wayne Goretsky’s stick handling is to hockey.  That good, my friend replied.  Yes, I said.  And Darlington is like the coach the Canucks needed to bring the Cup home.
As for the story, written by Hugh Wheeler, it’s rather tasteless, more like a fart joke than Steven King at his lowest. Hugh Wheeler clearly could have used editing by Monty Python. A vengeful barber slices the throats of his enemies and others rather indiscriminately while Mrs Lovett turns the corpses into pies for profit, selling human remains to the unaware cannibalistic masses. It’s as macabre as a Robert Picton Farm opera with Sarah McLaughlan  and Bryan Adams in happy pig costumes singing a Bare Naked Lady score.  Is someone in the VSO smoking BC Budd or are times so bad in Gotham Vancouver that the well heeled need this level of humour to continue their decadent businesses?

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