What would musical theater be like without the contributions of Stephen Sondheim? Not much. Over the past 50-plus years (his first Broadway show was West Side Story in 1957), Sondheim has contributed lyrics and music — often both — to nearly 20 musicals. Which one is the greatest? There might be room for argument here (there are so many to choose from), but most Sondheim fans put Sweeney Todd at the top of their list.
Sondheim created the tale of the “Demon Barber of Fleet Street” with the notion that he wanted it to scare people, and it’s done just that for three decades. It’s a great show in the run-up to Halloween — what with Sweeney’s collaboration with Mrs. Lovett to turn his victims into meat pies — and that’s surely what Footlighters, Inc., had in mind when they scheduled it. (It opens tonight and continues through Oct. 24.)—-
Making it all the better are cast members Rick Kramer and Pamela Day, both past Cincinnati Entertainment Award winners, who know their way around Sondheim’s clever lyrics and complex melodies. Kramer, in fact, previously played Sweeney in 1995 for another excellent community theater, Cincinnati Music Theatre (CMT). He’s also played leading roles in productions of West Side Story, Company (he was Bobby, the central character), Falcon Theatre’s Assassins in 1998 (he played John Wilkes Booth) and Ben Stone in Follies for CMT in 2007.
Day performed with Kramer in Footlighters’ 1992 production of Company. More recently she played the Witch in 2004 for Footlighters’ Into the Woods, and she picked up a 2009 CEA as Rose in CMT’s Gypsy, a show with lyrics by Sondheim. For Sweeney, she’ll play The Beggar Woman, a character with a poignant link to the title character.
Footlighters has a great track record of fine productions at its Stained Glass Theater in Newport, a church that’s become a fine performance space. I suspect tickets will be hard to come by, so track them down now.