Dark Humor is Served in Skylight Music Theatre's 'Sweeney Todd'

May 17, 2017

Pasties, or meat pies, are a staple of Wisconsin’s north country cuisine.  But it’s safe to say that once you see the classic Steven Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd, you’ll never view meat pies the same again.

This Friday night, the Skylight Music Theatre premieres its production of the darkly funny show about the demon barber of London’s Fleet Street.  The play opened on Broadway in 1979 and has won eight Tony Awards.

For Sweeney Todd director Matthew Ozawa, the musical at its very base is about a barber and a baker. However, as it develops the audience follows Todd's bloody revenge after his life and family were stolen from him being wrongly imprisoned by an unscrupulous judge. The unique alliance between Todd and the baker Mrs. Lovett brings comedy and drama together with a pastry blender.

Even though it is about a serial killer, it's a morality tale for Ozawa. "It really puts into question why does someone kill?  And what triggers people to do what they do?"

Matthew Ozawa (Stage Director) works with Christina Hall (Mrs. Lovett) and Andrew Varela (Sweeney Todd) in rehearsal for Skylight Music Theatre’s "Sweeney Todd."
Credit Mark Frohna / Skylight Music Theatre

"I think every single character in the show at the heart of it really is very, very human," he adds. Ozawa describes the piece as a "roller coaster ride" filled with wit, charm, rhythm, and great music and lyrics that pulls the audience right in.

"As you're going up the roller coaster, you're feeling fear, you're feeling all of this adrenaline build up in your body, but then once you go over the top of that roller coaster and start to actually ride the ride - it becomes an exhilarating experience," he says.

While the audience cannot directly relate to a character committing murder, Ozawa's goal in this production is to help the people connect with the characters and their struggles. "What I've tried to do is really tell the story and have people feel that, but also really make sure that the truths and the realities of these characters are fully fleshed so that people really do relate to the piece."

Skylight Music Theatre's production of Sweeney Todd opens Friday at the Broadway Theatre Center in the Third Ward and runs through June 11th.