Not all musicals can be sweet and chock full of hoe-downs.
There's a dark half to most everything in life, even musical theater, and "Sweeney Todd" carries the sinister side of that pretty much all on its own.
The revenge-touting musical that opened last weekend at the Lake City Playhouse is twisted. Morbid. Horribly tragic.
And it's totally thrilling to watch, especially with the playhouse's admirably committed cast members.
I'm reluctant to give too much away, though I suspect most are familiar with the plot.
Virtuoso barber Sweeney Todd, who has changed his name from Benjamin Barker, returns to London to exact revenge on those who falsely convicted him of a crime in order to rape his wife and abduct his daughter.
Sweeney falls in with a baker of flexible morals, and his revenge soon expands to encompass all of humanity. He murders his barbershop customers, and the baker finds an innovative way to exploit Sweeney's hobby for her financial gain.
Need I mention this isn't a show for young children? The performance has a little foul language, and obviously adult themes. The overall tone might be enough to have little ones scared.
For the rest of the community, come and revel in the cast's expert handling of this dark fare. The show is fun, offers haunting melodies and doesn't allow viewers one second to be bored.
Daniel J. Bell, channeling Sweeney, is everything and more an audience could ask for in a lunatic barber.
He juggles Sweeney's despair and rage with a quiet, tortured presence. He's simply scary as he glowers and pets his murder weapons, at one point stepping through the audience to toss out some spine-shivering threats.
With a booming, hellishly deep voice, Bell evokes a madness that is eerily fun to watch.
Abbey Crawford pumps life into the performance as Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney's partner in crime.
Crawford has endless energy in her deliciously devious role, and she boasts a powerful set of pipes that dominate the musical's complex melodies.
Kent Kimball, a Lake City Playhouse veteran, is perfectly slimy as Judge Turpin, the corrupt official behind most of Todd's problems. Kimball has a strong voice, too, compounding the drama of his character's plotting.
Caitlin Duffey and Brendan Brady work well together as Johanna and Anthony, the only innocent characters in the show. Their voices blend together sweetly, and they have a nice chemistry.
Young Evan Figuracion is also impressive playing Tobias, a boy who ends up working at Lovett's bakery. Figuracion has a beautiful voice, and easily handles melodies that would challenge adult actors.
The other cast members, many of whom have played central roles in past plays, dominate the layered musical numbers. The actors bring everything they have to the performance, with feet pounding and eyes skewering the audience. They keep the show at an intense level.
There's so much to appreciate in this show, including a plot twist and a delightful barbershop prop.
When I watched the opening performance, I was increasingly convinced it was one of the best shows I've ever seen at the playhouse.
It's dark, yes, but the show is conveyed with strong performances and catchy melodies. The songs might be about murder, but I still heard people humming them on their way to the parking lot.
"Sweeney Todd" runs through March 3. Showtimes are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The final show is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 3.
Ticket prices are $19.75 for adults; $17.75 for military/students; $15.75 for seniors; $13.75 for juniors.
To purchase tickets, call 667-1323 or go to lakecityplayhouse.org.