Newcomb Department of Music balances horror and humor in ‘Sweeney Todd’

Cadence Neenan, Staff Reporter

“Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is a musical thriller that manages to tie together cringe-worthy horrific violence with comedy — no easy feat as far as musical thrillers go.

Despite being a show all about murder, the Newcomb Department of Music managed to bring the musical to life.

The cast tackled the macabre musical with verve, conquering the complex harmonies, multifaceted characters and emotional depth that make Sondheim musicals legend.

The show’s romantic leads, Johanna and Anthony, played by Bailey Gabrish and Joshua Wayne Brewer, perfectly portrayed a cloyingly sweet and wildly naïve couple, hitting their stride late in act one with a flutteringly realistic performance of “Kiss Me.”

Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett were played brilliantly by Justin Lee Miller and Leslie Castay, who appeared through courtesy of the Actor’s Equity Association. Both overcame the difficult staccato rhythms in some of the musical’s most famous songs, and managed perfect comedic timing on top of that, with brilliant performances of “The Worst Pies in London,” “A Little Priest” and “By the Sea.”

Miller was a captivating Sweeney: bringing a terrifyingly convincing passion to every song, his darkened eyes seeming to search the audience for answers in a way which made every song all the more compelling.

Some of the show’s most sparkling performances, however, were from names lower on the playbill. An over-the-top, perfectly pompous Adolfo Pirelli was brought to life by Andrew James Craig, and a predatory Judge Turpin that could send shivers down your spine was played by Austin Adomitis.

While the cast had some difficulties hitting the full emotional depth of the show — leaving the audience laughing nervously deep into the second act — even as the tone of the show begins to take a darker turn, the energy the cast exuded garnered standing ovations as the show came to a close.