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‘Sweeney Todd’ a Tale of Love and Revenge
Thursday, April 21, 2022


“We have shepherd’s pie peppered with actual shepherd on top! Here’s the politician, so oily it’s served with a doily…”

These lines from “A Little Priest” in Sweeney Todd” hint at the rather macabre storyline that runs through Stephen Sondheim’s dark musical. But there’s also humor and there’s love in this tale of revenge.

The Spot will present “Sweeney Todd—The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” tonight through Sunday, May 1 at The Spot Theater in Ketchum’s light industrial district.

The musical, inspired by a fictional villain in a 19th century penny dreadful serial, is a popular one.

The musical, which features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, revolves around a man who returns to London after being unjustly imprisoned. He finds the judge who framed him has ravaged his wife and stolen their child. He reinstates himself as a barber with the help of Mrs. Lovett, who owns a failing pie shop, but this time he uses his razor blade in ways he never could have imagined before.

It turns out his first victim provides a tasty filling for Mrs. Lovett’s heretofore horrible tasting pies and soon the two have quite an assembly line process going as Todd waits to enact his revenge on the man who did him wrong.

“Sweeney Todd is beloved and brutal,” said Director Natalie Battistone. “Why are we doing this at The Spot? And why right now? Well, times is hard. In a general sense, the suffering of the characters within the world of this play is not unknown to us.

“We live in a society riddled with corruption, greed, deception, uncertainty, wracked by ‘plague’ and a pervasive feeling of dread,” she added. “There’s mistrust, doubt. Vengeance is trending. The world of the play is a heightened and terrifying reflection of our own. As a random Sweeney meme attested: Meat Industry Shortages and People Demanding Haircuts. Suddenly Feels Relatable.”

Even longtime playgoers will have trouble initially recognizing some of the characters in The Spot’s production because of the macabre makeup.

Kevin Wade stars as a solemn and sometimes chilling Benjamin Barker-turned Sweeney Todd. Yanna Lantz, as Mrs. Lovett the pie lady, injects humor into the play with her imitable Gumby-like moves and somewhat sassy take on things.

Savina Barini portrays the Beggar Woman, who has a secret to be discovered, and John Mauldin, Judge Turpin. John’s son Luke Mauldin injects an innocence into the musical with his unconditional love for Sweeney Todd’s equally innocent daughter, played by Mattigan Hope Monschke.

Others in the play include Matt Musgrove as the scheming Beadle Bamford; Brett Moellenberg as the flamboyant con artist Adolfo Pirelli, Andrew Alburger as the corrupt insane asylum director Jonas Fogg, Lizzie Loving as the eager-to-please but very observant Tobias Ragg, Harrison Van Lear Black as her understudy and Melodie Taylor-Mauldin.

In keeping with Sondheim’s desires for the show, The Spot has placed the play in a small, dark minimalist space that’s as black as a coffin.

“The haunting emptiness of the space is interrupted by the shapes, shadows and voices of characters as they pass through on their way elsewhere. Though situated in Victorian-era London, everything is augmented. Slightly askew. Some of it upside down. Sondheim describes the ballads as taking place in limbo. We are in a dark, dream-like liminal space somewhere between then and now,” Battistone said.

Grant Carey’s vision for the music takes inspiration from Battistone’s dreamscape concept and the experimentalism of Sondheim’s score as he strives for a performance that keeps audience on the edge of their seats even as it stays true to Sondheim’s harmony, melody, rhythm and lyrics.

“In my experience, this is actually the great joy of working on Sondheim; the phrases are written so perfectly that most of the work is about learning and honoring the pitches and rhythms,” said Carey.  “To fully express both the bombastic and intimate moments we are using a creative hybrid of backing track and live instruments that weave together throughout the show. The tracks are not typical pre-recorded musical theatre tracs. I’m producing original versions with modernized and eclectic instrumentation including synthesizers, drum machines and guitars.”

Musical theater provides a protective and satisfying buffer for this gruesome tale, said Battistone.

“Almost the entire piece is underscored, offering our audience a sense of removal from the events through music,” she said. “Sondheim was majorly influenced by the haunting compositions of classic horror and melodrama film soundtracks; The Grand Guignol, a small bloody theatre in France that preceded cinema/classic horror, and the retelling of Sweeney’s tale by Chris Bond. Sondheim categorized his musical thriller as a dark operetta but said that for him it was a movie for the stage.”

Battistone has invented the wronged barber’s subconscious as a dreamscape, allowing audience members to go to the grisly extremes by virtue of the subconscious’s unpredictability.

“In dreams the familiar is foreign and the foreign familiar. All of the characters are a fragment of Barker’s being and the events of the play an unconscious expression of his own desire,” she said.

“What I love about Sweeney Todd is that it is high tragedy. There is a catharsis in the end. All the blood that is shed is atoned for and Sweeney finally has salvation. Everything is lost and everything is gained. There is a release—a release that in some way everyone can relate to and is, therefore, satisfying.”

The play is ultimately a love story for all of its characters, she added.

“They are all operating from a place of love, albeit very different kinds. A quote that keeps returning to me is ‘Vengeance is the lazy form of grief.’ Grief is unexpressed love. When we cannot grapple with our pain, our grief, our suffering or access the healing power of compassion, it is transmuted into anger and we seek retribution, comfort, understanding. But some things are never to be understood. When we act from that baser parts of ourselves—ego?—isn’t that Sweeney there beside us?”


“Sweeney Todd” will run April 21-May 1 at The Spot, 220 Lewis St., No. 2, in Ketchum’s light industrial district.

Showtimes are 7:30 tonight, Friday and Saturday, April 22-23, and Tuesday through Saturday, April 26-30. A 2 p.m. matinee will be held Saturday, April 23. A 4 p.m. matinee will be held Sunday, April 24, and Sunday, May 1.

Tickets are $33 for general audience members and $15 for those 30 and under, available at

The play runs 2 hours and 45 minutes with intermission; concessions are available. It is considered suitable for those 12 and older, thanks to violence and mature themes.

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