Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I was waiting in line for a food truck when Martin called me telling me he would be visiting New York soon and that we should meet up. “Of course,” I told him.

Knowing Martin, before he even came, I already knew what we would do: drinking and seeing a play. I liked theaters. I even worked part-time at one for four years just so I could see all the plays for cheaper. But Martin, he was a true enthusiast. He chose a little different path career-wise later in life. But the Martin I met in college was a guy who did theater in high school, major/minor in theater at college, hung out with theater peers and went all out crazy for Halloween.

When Martin was in NYC, one day, he called me while I was at work telling me he won the Broadway lottery. Playing the Broadway lottery was one of the ways to get Broadway tickets for much cheaper. Since classic Broadway performance could easily be a couple hundred. I couldn’t believe Martin won the lottery within the 3 days he stayed in NYC. The pair of tickets were for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I watched Johnny Depp’s Sweeney Todd but never saw the original Broadway show.

The show was at Greenwich House Theater. In theory, a show that was not on Broadway street area of Midtown, was called an “off Broadway” show. But in my mind, as long as they were in the vicinity of Manhattan, they were Broadway regardless. For many classic Broadway shows, the theaters in which the show happened were specially designed and reserved for only that show for the whole period the show was running. Greenwich House was one of those theaters. It was dedicated only for Sweeney Todd for more than a year the show was in town. The building interior was designed to feel like a small, old school, run-down diner/shop. Without the faded small sign in front and the address printed on your ticket, it would be impossible to tell that the building was a theater. It looked like a normal house.

Pic credit:

In front of the theater, there placed an old school barber chair.

The auditorium itself was set up like a diner/pie shop. There were big rectangular tables and audiences sat around the tables, not in rows like traditional theaters. There was no lifted stage. Everything was set up on the same ground level, giving audiences the feel of authenticity. I always thought that stage set up and design was genius. The tickets Martin won was top-notch. We got to sit right by the staircases. We were so close to it that if Martin stretched out his legs, they would definitely touch the stairs.

Why to See Sweeney Todd | NYC's Best Off-Broadway Show
Pic credit: Kickerbocker Hotel

The important point that made Sweeney Todd at Greenwich House stood out was that the show was immersive, making it more like an experience than just a simple show. Actors and actresses stood so close to you, you could hear them breathing, see their sweats and their clothes sometimes even brushed by your arms. In the middle of the songs, sometimes they would jump on audiences’ tables, running between them and yelling their lines at you.

There was a moment, an actor jumped on my table, in front of me and yelled at me “Do you? Do you? Do you?”. I knew it was part of the song but the fact that someone intensely yelled at you made me for a second confused about whether or not I should reply. I glanced at Martin for help and he shook his head real quick.

The singing was outstanding, needless to say. It was true Broadway. Martin was beaming with excitement watching the actors stomping on the stage and the tables. I could not stop smiling in amaze. When the performance was so close to you, you felt a rush no upstage performance could compare. I have seen quite a few musical performances, but Sweeney Todd at Greenwich House was still the best experience I had ever had with musicals. And I had Martin to thank for.

This post was a post for the Discover Prompt day 10: Orchestrate

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