Opera AACC hits all marks with ‘Sweeney Todd’


Chance Iheoma, Photography Editor

Opera AACC gave an astounding performance of the musical thriller “Sweeney Todd” on Feb 16.

The performance, directed by faculty member Jerry Vess and conducted by Anna Binneweg of the AACC Symphony Orchestra, opened on Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Robert E. Kauffman Theater on campus. Additional performances are at 2 p.m. from Feb. 17 through Feb. 23.

The musical play, based on the 1979 Broadway rendition by composer Stephen Sondheim and writer Hugh Wheeler, tells a macabre story of love and vengeance.

Barber Sweeney Todd, played in the campus rendition by Douglas Byerly, chair of AACC’s Performing Arts Department, returns to his home in London to find his wife apparently deceased and his daughter in the custody of the judge who had him arrested on false charges.

Actress Kristina Tardif Banks, who portrays Mrs. Lovett, a pie shop owner who sells “the worst pies in London,” meets Sweeney Todd on Fleet Street. Together the two conspire to get revenge on actor Greg Jones Ellis’s character, Judge Turpin, and rescue Todd’s daughter, Johanna, played by student Ashley Gladden.

The AACC Symphony Orchestra played the live score that drove the production.

Byerly gives a haunting performance as Todd, with the pain of misanthropy and loss hanging off of every line.

Banks expertly weaves dark humor with tragic sympathy in her performance as Mrs. Lovett, often giving the morbid tale an ironically light-hearted twist. She and Byerly play off of each other with remarkable charisma.

Actress Emily L. Sergo brought an engagingly humorous and antagonizing presence as rival barber Adolfo Pirelli.

Costume designer Mary Bova gave each actor’s wardrobe a personal touch, lending the players an air of Victorian-era authority.

Peter Kaiser, events manager at AACC, headed the production’s lighting design, which glazed each scene with intense, mood-heightening colors.

While the set design could have done with a bit more to bring the audience into the supposedly filthy London setting—possibly with the addition of more stage adornments—the excellent blocking as well as the view of the orchestra did enough to keep those in attendance engaged.

Tickets for general admission are $25 and $15 for AACC faculty, staff, seniors, groups and students.