SWEENEY TODD by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, directed by Morris Panych, with George Masswohl, Fiona Reid, Tyley Ross, Shaun Amyot, Regan Thiel, Damien Atkins, Bruce Dow, Michael Fletcher and Mary Ann McDonald. Presented by CanStage at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front East). Runs to April 19, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm and Saturday 2 pm. $20-$75, some rush and Monday pwyc. 416-366-7710. Rating: NNNN
Sweeney Todd is one of Stephen Sondheim's best shows, a cynical, cleverly written and composed grand Guignol melodrama/musical about hypocrisy, corruption and vengeance. Oh, yeah -- and devoted love.In the hands of director Morris Panych it has some of the thrills, most of the comedy but not all the darkness it needs. There's a haunted quality and a glower in the eyes of George Masswohl's musically eloquent and razor-happy Sweeney, who seeks private justice against the lustful judge (Michael Fletcher) who years before separated the barber from his wife and daughter, but not the driven madness the part requires.
Fiona Reid's Mrs. Lovett, Todd's partner in the meat-pie business, is splendidly comic and grounds the batty character in her love for the murderous barber.
There's other fine musical and dramatic work in the show, notably by Shaun Amyot as a waif drawn into the pie-shop business, Damien Atkins as the judge's creepy, spiderlike beadle, Tyley Ross as the naive sailor who falls for Todd's painted-doll daughter (Regan Thiel) and Mary Ann McDonald as a raunchy yet pathetic beggar woman.
Ken MacDonald's set blends elements of English music hall and a seaside pier on which Panych moves the chorus like zombies caught in a fate -- or a society -- they can't control.
It's not a perfect production of this macabre work, but Panych captures much of its wicked spite and theatricality.