Sunday night I did my part to stimulate the economy. I went to the theatre. Well, the tickets were free, but I did go out for dinner beforehand, so I think that still counts.
Anyway, the theatre in question was the SCRANTON CULTURAL CENTER and the show in question was the musical "SWEENEY TODD." I wanted to see the movie version that came out in the past year or so, but never got around to it. So, this live musical production was my first experience with the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of it. The performances, for the most part, were fine. But, I found elements of the staging a bit odd and disconcerting. HERE is the link to the site for the touring company. You can check out the actors, and there are some videos there so you can get a sense of what the production was like.
The set itself never changed. All the action took place on a small stage on the stage. Scene changes were managed by the actors moving chairs and other props from place to place and by actors moving from the foreground to the background. Actors whose characters were not actively involved in a particular scene remained on stage, either at the back of the set or on the sides. Usually, they were playing an instrument since the actors doubled as the orchestra!
The most distracting thing about this staging, I thought, was that it sometimes resulted in characters speaking to each other from different parts of the stage and without being face-to-face. For example, one character facing the audience from the front of the stage might be speaking with another character who was facing the audience but at the back of the stage. Odd.
The fact that the actors doubled as the orchestra was also odd. Maybe unexpected is a better word. I didn't find it as distracting as it might have been, probably because the actors' movements throughout the play were very deliberate and fluid. So, it's not like instruments were being thrown all over the place or the actors had to hurry to get to their instruments.
I think this aspect of the staging was handled very well. I was also impressed by the fact that the actors (or most of them, anyway) played more than one instrument. They each had one main instrument, but often filled in on the piano or another instrument as required. Having to memorize lines can be hard enough. Add music for several instruments on top of that, and you have quite an achievment by a talented group of artists.
However, as I mentioned earlier, the actors' movements were slow and deliberate. Maybe that was by design, or maybe it was a design necessitated by the confining size of the stage. Either way, combined with a set/costume design that utilized only black, white, and red, and the effect is soporific (at least on me). I was glad when it was over.
So, there you have it. Talented cast doing what it can with awkward staging. I still think I want to see the movie, though.