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The Most Haunting Date Night in NYC: A Review of Sweeney Todd on Broadway

Experience the ultimate spooky season date night in NYC with Sweeney Todd on Broadway.

Josh Groban, Annaleigh Ashford and the company of the 2023 Broadway production of SWEENEY TODD
Josh Groban, Annaleigh Ashford and the company of the 2023 Broadway production of SWEENEY TODD, Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

If you’ve been with us for a minute you know we aren’t ones for dragging out a review so we’ll break this into 3 bite-size sections: general information, a performance review, and how to make the most of this date night idea.

The Spooky Spectacle: All the Bits and Pieces You May Want to Know

Theater: Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 W. 46th St., New York, map

Main Cast: Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes including one intermission

Lyrics and Music: Stephen Sondheim

Plot: The story revolves around Sweeney Todd, a vengeful barber who returns to 19th-century London seeking retribution against the corrupt judge who wronged him. He teams up with Mrs. Lovett, a pie shop owner, to exact his gruesome revenge, leading to a series of dark and tragic events.

Spooky Elements and Trigger Warnings: This play involves cannibalism. They are not subtle about it; there’s even an entire song dedicated to how people would taste as pies. It is done in a mostly tasteful manner, but there’s an exception. There is a line delivered by the character Tobias in the second act, which had the entire audience on the edge of discomfort. However, if you can refrain from dwelling too deeply on the overall concept, you should be able to enjoy the performance without enduring nightmares.

Unmasking the Artistry: A Performance Review

Disclaimer: When I, like every other millennial, was going through my pre-teen Johnny Depp obsession, Tim Burton’s take on Sweeney Todd became an instant favorite. However, I will try my hardest to avoid comparisons and provide a fresh review of this 2023 Broadway rendition.

I must start by praising the lighting team and this may seem like an odd way to start, but I have never seen lighting so masterfully add to a story than in this musical. A lot of the lighting choices like the plot are dark and eerie. I mean a barber killing his clients and his downstairs neighbor serving them up inside her pies doesn’t exactly inspire rainbows and sunshine. The stage lighting was skillfully utilized, adding an eerie quality when necessary while gently illuminating the rare moments of love and hope. Speaking of technical brilliance, the staging and set design were seamlessly executed, never distracting from the narrative. Everything had a purpose, devoid of unnecessary embellishments, and the intricate mechanics worked flawlessly. These elements set the stage for the outstanding performances.

Despite having a minor in theater, I'm approaching the next part of this performance review as just a fan—of Sweeney Todd the story, the Tim Burton movie, Patti LuPone's performances that I binged on YouTube, and a fan of Broadway itself. Given the formidable legacy of Patti LuPone, Angela Lansbury, and even Helena Bonham Carter (I know she wasn’t on stage but still), I entered the theater with curiosity and a touch of skepticism about Annaleigh Ashford's portrayal of Mrs. Lovett. Listen, there are scary things to be wary about in this musical, and Annaleigh’s performance is not one of them. She instantly steals the show, giving her own perfectly mischievous and vibrantly sarcastic take on the character. If Aladdin on Broadway's magic centers around the genie, Sweeney Todd's brilliance hinges on Mrs. Lovett. This isn't to diminish the rest of the cast, who all delivered brilliant performances, I’m just saying I want to be first in line for her next show. But enough gushing about Annaleigh, let's briefly touch on the rest of the cast.

Vocally Josh Groban is 1 of 1, but I couldn't help but wish for a touch more malevolence in his portrayal of the demon barber. Nevertheless, I enjoyed his performance and I’m probably just being overly biased from having watched Johnny Depp’s version too many times.

The cast is extensive, and while I won't delve into each member's performance, I must mention Gen-Z favorite Gaten Matarazzo. Initially, I despised his character in the movie, but Gaten managed to make me feel a tad less disdain. He brought a surprising relatability to Tobias that caught me off guard.

If I had to provide an overall rating for the performance and stage production (bearing in mind that the plot and songs were already a solid 10/10 in my book), I'd give it a 4.8 out of 5 (Read: I’d eagerly return for an encore viewing).

Crafting Your Sinister Night Out

Before delving into the sinister world of Sweeney Todd, I strongly recommend indulging in a meal beforehand – and perhaps steering clear of any pies. My personal pre-show choice was Pure Thai Cookhouse, conveniently just a short stroll away, offering a delectable range from appetizers to desserts.

If your visit falls within the eerie embrace of October and you're in the mood for pre-show libations, I wholeheartedly suggest a visit to Lillie's Victorian. They go all out to transform the place into a spooky wonderland during the Halloween season, immersing you in the perfect atmosphere for what lies ahead.

For those seeking additional spooky thrills before or after the performance, keep an eye on our events calendar for a host of chilling options!

Bonus Tip: If you're on a tight budget, but still want to enjoy the show, try the daily lottery offered by Broadway Direct. Sweeney Todd is popular, so don't lose hope if you don't win right away, it might take a couple of tries to win.

If you dare embark on this spooky Broadway date night, don’t forget to tag us in your obligatory playbill selfie. We hope the chilling theatrical experience of Sweeney Todd etches unforgettable memories into your night, leaving you with lasting chills and a haunting appreciation for the art of theater.

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If you visit Sweeney Todd on Broadway don't forget to tag @popupgirlsnyc for a chance to be featured on our Instagram feed!

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Dec 28, 2023

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