Tuesdays with Corti: A Tower of Eternal Purgatory

It is Day Two of Sweeney Todd rehearsal, on our lunch break with senses reeling, I’m here checking in quickly with you on the rapturous work before us! First of all, yesterday, it seemed I might literally jump out of my skin with excitement to finally, after all these months, have this company of actors assembled under one roof. After Tim Rater welcomed everyone handsomely, we walked through the scenic designer Jeff Kmiec’s set model which brought up talking points and addressed the psychological landscape of our production. Kmiec has devised a kind of tower, the domain of “a dark and a vengeful god.” The windowless structure appears to rise ad infinitum in a kind of surrealist system of staircases and balconies in which the communion of our storytellers dwell, caged in an eternal purgatory. After a company photo across the street on Paramount’s stage, the voices of the cast were raised soaring through the air of our rehearsal space with the at once scintillating and dark force of Sondheim’s score.

This morning, the principals sat at their music stands practiced and ready for everything maestro Tom Vendafreddo has prepared for them. Cecilia Iole and Patrick Rooney singing “Johanna” and “Anthony Hope” possess a precision, beauty, and charm which has got me completely captivated by discoveries they are making in their characters. Emily Rohm, playing “Lucy Barker” aka “The Beggar Woman,” has begun quite a revelation and vulnerability in the role enhanced by her peerless soprano and dramatic skill.  Bri Sudia and Paul-Jordan Jansen have already manifest in their process as “Mrs. Lovett” and “Sweeney Todd” impressive vocals insightful, funny, and gorgeous. I attended with more than a bit of slack-jawed awe as eyes moistened with emotion and chills at the significant themes of the play which they sing with a devastating aim…

Here are a few excerpts, cuttings of Mr. Sondheim’s lyrics for you:

From A Little Priest:

“For what’s the sound of the world out there?
Those crunching noises pervading the air?
It’s man devouring man, my dear,
And who are we to deny it in here?

The history of the world, my sweet –
Is who gets eaten and who get to eat.”

Devastating stuff and all of it quite the rhapsodic, waltzing, dance with death!

Jim

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