As a rule, New York drama critics are admitted only to those Broadway shows to which they’re formally invited, which usually means a press preview just prior to opening night. (Sometimes we’re asked back later in the run to cover a major cast change.) Because I go to the theater so often, and because tickets cost so much, it’s very unusual for me to see a play more than once, whereas I normally see a film at least twice if I really like it. Until last Saturday, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was the only show I’d paid to see again since I started covering theater for The Wall Street Journal two and a half years ago. Well, not only did I do the same thing for Sweeney Todd, but I ordered my tickets immediately after coming home from the press preview. That’s how good I thought it was–and I felt the same way on Saturday. So did Ms. In the Wings, who was all but jumping up and down with excitement when the curtain fell at evening’s end. “I could see it again right now!” she said as we filed out of the theater.
I knew just what she meant. John Doyle’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece is so powerfully individual that you feel as if you’re seeing the show anew, no matter how well you think you know it–and I know Sweeney Todd very well indeed, having written about it in detail in A Terry Teachout Reader. I know some people, and even a few critics, have found the production disappointingly modest in scale, but I’m damned if I can see why that should stop them from appreciating the sheer audacity of Doyle’s concept, or the overwhelming punch with which his perfect cast brings it to life.
– I finally started revving the engine down on Sunday, having hit all four of my accumulated deadlines and taken all but one of my scheduled out-of-town business trips through the end of 2005. (I’m going to Baltimore on Saturday afternoon to see Centerstage’s production of No