Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford Eat It Up in “Sweeney Todd” Broadway Revival

Nothing could be cooked more well done than the long-awaited revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Starring Josh Groban as the titular slayer and Annaleigh Ashford as his loyal right-hand-woman Mrs. Lovett, vengeance and grief were successfully personified at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in the goriest and most sanguine ways possible.

Not only does this revived production feature the original 26-piece orchestra, a sight for sore eyes on Broadway these days, but an original cast to absolutely die for. Boasting the likes of Jordan Fisher as Anthony Hope and Gaten Matarazzo as Tobias, in addition to seasoned production veterans such as director Thomas Kail and musical supervisor Alex Lacamoire, “Sweeney Todd” could not be more well-suited for stage success.

Though Fisher and Matarazzo had departed by the time I watched the show, their respective replacements of Daniel Yearwood and Daniel Marconi gripped the audience’s hearts with their renditions of some of the most emotional songs in the musical. Even Maria Bilbao, who made her Broadway debut as Johanna, made the typically one-dimensional character one of her own and a true product of her environment. The usually tame and boring “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” ballad that Johanna sings about wanting to be free from her bedroom confines becomes unsettling in Bilbao’s voice. A song about longing soon becomes one about desperation and escaping captivity, as Bilbao twitches and jerks with nervous tics and expertly demonstrates what being trapped in a house for sixteen years would do to a person. Her infatuation with Anthony becomes less realistically based on true love and more as if she is drowning and sinking her nails into the closest thing that will keep her afloat. That is to say, Bilbao does a hauntingly beautiful job in her role.

Despite the deliciously talented supporting cast, Groban and Ashford truly stole the show by positively killing it (in more ways than one). Groban’s ability to make even the most heart-wrenching and chilling songs sound like classical masterpieces is unmatched, and Ashford’s physical comedy and overall comedic timing are the perfect side dishes to the main course that is Sweeney Todd. The two complement each other effortlessly, and in no way did it go unnoticed the genuine fun the duo had together especially during the tongue-in-cheek song of “A Little Priest.” Groban’s deep timbre beside Ashford’s soprano lilt further emphasizes the characters’ varying ideals that surprisingly still fit hand-in-hand, making for an undoubtedly one-of-a-kind pair.

Furthermore, acting and singing aside, the show featured absolutely harrowing choreography by Steven Hoggett that effectively delivered chills, with many of the sharp movements mimicking that of a body landing at awkward angles. Scenes such as the asylum escape became flammable nightmare fuel, and that’s not including the actual horrors that have been occurring throughout the entire show up until that point.

Nevertheless, “Sweeney Todd” truly served as the prime juxtaposition of absolute horror and beautiful music arrangements baked together in a savory way that leaves you thinking, “God, that’s good,” and insatiably hungry for more.