In Review: McIntyre, Bix, and Sanders in DMMO "Sweeney Todd"
"The estimable American festival, Des Moines Metro Opera, ventured confidently into Stephen Sondheim territory with an enthralling new production of Sweeney Todd. The first great asset in its favor is that the company entrusted the stage direction to the confident skills of Kristine McIntyre. This endlessly inventive director revels in character motivation, ever-shifting stage pictures, and a rich inventory of detail-oriented business. Ms. McIntyre is also well-acquainted with the idiosyncratic strengths of the Blank Theatre’s thrust space, with its mid-stage sunken pit, and capitalizes on them. She moves her players through their inexorable paces with murderous glee, and a dark humor firmly fixed in Gothic reality. This was quite a driven rendition of this now-familiar tale, and the entire cast seemed electrifying in its delivery. While there were blissful moments of momentary musical comedy repose, the whole performance was underscored by a restlessness that kept us on edge even as it kept us entertained. . . Tobias Ragg is often presented as a somewhat hapless puppy dog. Not so here, with Christian Sanders characterizing him as more a coltish street urchin, his steady, shining tenor ringing out in the house. His version of “Not While I’m Around” was a production highlight, infused with such an appealing boyish determination that it earned a prolonged ovation. . . Sondheim wrote two cruelly high tenor roles, and both were well taken on this occasion. . . As the Beadle, Corey Bix somehow successfully sang in a register only dogs can hear, and when not in the stratosphere, his meaty tenor amused and delighted in the parlor scene before his demise. . .this was a minor miracle of a Sweeney Todd: By turns intimate, grand, in your face, out of this world, over-the-top, restrained, musically impeccable, and, having seen the original Broadway production (‘pace’ Mr. Prince et al), DMMO’s thrilling up-close-and-personal experience is even better. " -James Sohre, Opera Today
"As you enter the theatre, your eyes can't help but focus on the intricate set designed by R. Keith Brumley. What I loved was how as the story unfolded, so did the set. Each reveal during the show was just as exciting as the previous. While many productions of Sweeney Todd tend to use a black and white palette for colors, this production is daring and plays against that palette and uses color with the set and Jonathan Kipscher's beautiful costumes. Another of my favorite technical elements of the show is Kate Ashton's lighting. Her lighting allows Sweeney's shadow to almost look down on stage at the show's opening when he makes his first entrance and also allows the sets to light up and appear to be factory ovens being worked during the show. All of this is tied together under the fantastic direction of Kristine McIntyre. Her staging puts the audience right in the center of the show's action. It does a beautiful job of transitioning between when the audience is being told what is happening and times where the audience is getting to watch what is happening in the show. It's as though the proverbial fourth wall doesn't exist. . . On the other side of the coin is Corey Bix and Wayne Tigges as Beadle Bamford and Judge Turpin. When we first see them on stage, they do a fantastic job of coming across as the vile characters the show will reveal them to be as it goes on. . . The evening continues with a very charismatic performance from Christian Sanders as Tobias. He not only commands the audience's attention whenever he is on stage but exudes a charm that will have the audience members themselves wanting to purchase miracle elixir or meat pies right from him. . . From the incredible sets and costumes to the terrific direction and the outstandingly superb cast, Sweeney Todd is a production you won't want to miss." - DC Felton, Broadway World