Madness, corruption, vengeance, murder, cannibalism. What's not to love about "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"?

The darkly comic story has its roots in the grime of 19th-century London, and the musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler was written more than 30 years ago. Johnny Depp tackled the role of the title character in the 2007 film.

Now the morbid tale is brought to fresh life, of a sort, in an impressive new production by Bay Street Theatre on the second floor of Club One.

Directed by Jeffrey DeVincent, the show brings together some of Savannah's strongest voices and most compelling performers.

As the demon barber, Christopher Blair is at once officious and crazed, vengeful and world-weary.

And what a voice.

Cecilia Tran Arango, who has given provocative performances in previous BST productions, is stellar as the wide-eyed, love-struck, murderously maternal and utterly mad Mrs. Lovett.

Their duets are among the play's best moments.

Muse Arts Warehouse founder JinHi Soucy Rand is assistant director and a member of the chorus.

Leonard Rose, one of the best young singers and dancers I've seen in a while, plays the street kid who falls under the spell of the evil baker and barber.


What: "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25

Where: Bay Street Theatre, 1 Jefferson St.

Cost: $25; Most shows limited to ages 21 and older


Jack Wagner as the starry-eyed Anthony Hope and Emily Coleman as the teenage beauty Johanna are practically glowing onstage - an effect heightened by the rest of the cast's makeup, which seems some mixture of soot, ash and evil.

Under musical director Brandon Kaufman, three keyboards and a lone guitar establish the fast, sometimes throbbing pace. The action takes place primarily on the main stage, while the catwalk and aisles get use too.

Todd's barbershop has been placed on a raised platform in a back corner of the room, so it might be worth getting there early and trying out some different spots. And don't be afraid to sit up front - the blood doesn't splatter.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in the Savannah Morning News and blogs at He can be reached via