Razors are swinging and sales are soaring at the Orpheum Theatre tonight for Opera Omaha’s new production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Stephen Sondheim.
This production is designed and performed by a triumphant regiment of Opera Omaha debut artists and returning favorites. In particular Susan Clement, the Bluebarn Theatre’s Artistic Director since 2002, stage and concept directed this exciting new inception. It’s also her first time directing the work.
Zachary James, the original “Lurch” in the Broadway production of The Addams Family, not to mention a Grammy nominee, is also making an exciting Opera Omaha debut as the title character.
Sondheim, who passed away just last November, is an American music icon. The repertoire he contributed to the various cannon of standards, theatrical productions, and classically esteemed works includes such famously familiar staples as the lyrics of West Side Story, the song Send In the Clowns, the musicals A Little Night Music, Into the Woods, Company, and upwards of dozens more songs and shows even theatrical novices would defy statistics not to recall from the zeitgeist of the last 60 years.
All that is to say, the profound ticket sales response from Omaha patrons should come as no shock. If you haven’t caught the same “blood lust” for this macabre and yet amusing work of genius, I think you should jump on the bandwagon.
This masterwork of Sondheim’s features a brilliant and dazzling juxtaposition of dark comedy, true horror, and fascinating music. No matter your walk of life or your taste, there is something in this work that will snare your imagination. That’s perhaps why, amongst American Musical Theatre works, this is so frequently featured in the seasons of the best Opera Companies.
Opera Omaha’s Head of Music and Chorus Director, Sean Kelly, elaborated that Sweeney is a selection worthy of a company’s attention for its expansive and grandiose vision: “Opera in its definition is a celebration of every art form at the same time.” He continued, “I personally think that Sondheim is so musically sophisticated, that what he requires from the artists is the same amount of intellect, and savvy, and vocal technique that Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini require. For me there’s no difference.”
Kelly, who is a conquering and celebratory advocate for the first-rate company Opera Omaha has matured into over the last two decades, lauded this production of Sweeney as a particular and stirring accomplishment. He raved about “the power of the cast.” When he was kind enough to let me pick his brain about the show on Tuesday afternoon, the discourse consistently returned to his pride in the ensemble: “I think you would be silly to miss this opportunity. I really can’t imagine, whether we are talking about a Broadway show, or an Opera Company, a stronger cast. [It’s] just magnetic from top to bottom.
Obviously, it’s this blogger’s advice you should all, “Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.”
I grew up in church music and musical theatre. From my collegiate career and beyond I've traveled through opera, the symphony, the theatre and worship as a student, a performer, an entrepreneur, and a journalistic correspondent. I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to share with you some of the incredible and fascinating endeavors I continue to undertake in music and the arts. I don't need you to see the world the way I do, but I'll do everything I can to help you enjoy it as much as I have.