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Sweeney Todd at Theater West End in Central Florida: Killer Cast, Thrilling Show

Review: Jaimz Dillman

Photos: Mike Kitlaif

Spooky season is just ripe to welcome the Demon Barber of Fleet Street to downtown Sanford - about 20 minutes from Orlando, Florida.

Sweeney Todd runs through October 1 at Theater West End featuring a tight cast, killer vocals, and eye-catching sets and changes that make great use of the space.

The audience sits 3/4 of the way around the stage so different seats have different experiences but the actors move through the aisles during the entire production. This is an up close and personal type of offering.

AYO JERIAH DEMPS stars as the titular Sweeney with a big boisterous presence. Their Todd isn’t one to lurk in the shadows waiting to seek revenge. No, you know from the get-go this barber means business. A voice that carries well to the rafters, Demps pairs tortured facial expressions and subtle flexes of their hands to convey the tortured soul within. Even if it tends to teter into the over-dramatic, that’s Sondheim, right?

The other half of the show’s killer duo is played by Desire Montes. Her Mrs. Lovett deftly walks the line of deranged and comic relief while making her featured numbers look easy. She’s definitely mastered the art of the side eye and her timing is impeccable. Being a petite actress next to Demps’ intimidating stature raised the bar that much more visually and her duet with Tobias was heart-wrenching. If you know the story, you know why.

Speaking of, Shawn Elliot was the obvious audience favorite as Tobias earned lots of squeals from the house throughout his numbers. He played younger better than I’ve seen in a long time and that voice! I didn’t expect it and was pleasantly surprised at his range as the character deals with heavier problems towards the end.

Leigh Green plays a gender-bent Pirelli to the usual bravado of the character. Maybe a little more over the top than needed. But (spoiler alert) it made her death almost celebrated by the audience.

ELI HAMILTON as ANTHONY was earnest and sweet as a young sailor in love. Although I believed his interest in DAYJA LE’CHELLE as Johana more than her part, she held her own at a climatic moment impressing the audience with her bravado.

The ensemble all added strong vocals to the mix and not one pulled focus from the main scene. Not an easy achievement. Props to director Derek Critzer for moving them through transitions without letting the built-up energy die down making the ending both bittersweet and satisfying.

If you’re in the mood for a great start to the time of year for ghastly deeds, TWE’s production is a bloody good time. Check them out on First…. Street.


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