When she took on Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Lea only proved there is nothing that Lea cannot do onstage. Jett Pangan, the only choice of director Bobby Garcia to play the title role, has the most powerful voice onstage.
‘Where the hell was Lea Salonga?’
Leah C. Salterio (The Philippine Star) - October 19, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Entering The Theatre at Solaire even when stage lights were still down for Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, one can instantly feel the sinister aura from the impressive, stylized architecture onstage, with a towering, real car dangling, lots of metallic props and several dangerous accouterments littered around.

Even when the musical already started, the lights were still down and cast members sauntered onstage one after the other, merely armed with their flashlights, looking apparently for a mobile phone.

Credit the creativity of stage designer David Gallo, who fulfilled the “astonishing vision” of director Bobby Garcia in depicting the fabulous stage for Sweeney Todd. Setting the show in the fantastic ruins of Fogg’s Asylum, in the midst of 19th century London, there were jaw-dropping chaos and urban decay everywhere. Really, there is No Place Like London in this one.

Seeing Lea Salonga in this dark musical thriller is somewhat unthinkable, especially since nearly 80 percent of her roles onstage were downright wholesome. Adult portrayals, but still, wholesome. Yet, when she took on Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Lea only proved there is nothing that Lea cannot do onstage. Even her accent was consistently impeccable.

A Facebook post commented he didn’t see Lea onstage at all while playing Mrs. Lovett. “Where the hell was Lea Salonga? My gawwwd!,” remarked David Cosico. From start to finish, Lea was scheming as Mrs. Lovett, enterprising and utterly wise to work in tandem with Sweeney Todd for her meat pies. The Worst Pies in London explains why Mrs. Lovett needs the carnage from Sweeney Todd’s barber shop.

Naturally, Jett Pangan, the only choice of director Bobby Garcia to play the title role, gets to exact vengeance from start to finish, revenge was totally in his agenda. The Barber and His Wife is Benjamin Barker’s ode to his wife, Lucy. The song is a brief backstory to how he switched to being Sweeney Todd.

The versatile Nyoy Volante as Adolfo Pirelli falls into the ruthless hands of Sweeney Todd earlier in the first act. Yet, Nyoy gets to prove his unmistakable talent marvelously belting Pirelli’s Death.

The Beggar Woman roaming Fleet Street is Ima Castro, who joins the ensemble from No Place Like London to Ah, Miss, does a duet with Mrs. Lovett in Wait, gets her stirring solo in Beggar Woman’s Lullaby — all wonderfully performed.

Tobias Ragg, played by Luigi Quesada, gets to sing the musical’s most popular anthem Not While I’m Around and mid-way shares the piece in a duet with Mrs. Lovett. Luigi gets to prove he is really the talent to watch out for after consecutive musical breaks in Dani Girl and now in Sweeney Todd.

Arman Ferrer, in his fourth musical this year (following Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Binondo: A Tsinoy Musical and Mabining Mandirigma), plays the odd-looking Beadle Bamford. He made his presence felt and made use of his limited time onstage.

Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante, after delighting theater audiences as Cynthia Weil in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, steps into the character of Johanna, who gets paired with the idealistic Anthony, essayed by Gerald Santos. It was the first time they were paired together, yet, they displayed their undeniable chemistry as lovers.

No one was surprised when Mrs. Lovett — and not Sweeney Todd, the title role — took on the final bow at curtain call. After all, Lea deserved all the overwhelming adulation. Jett, too, of course, maniacally singing and slitting his customer’s throats. He has the most powerful voice onstage. Undoubtedly.

With costumes done by Rajo Laurel and Gerard Salonga conducting the orchestra, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street marks its 40th anniversary from the time it was first staged in London in 1979. It is the third Stephen Sondheim musical presented this second half of 2019 here in Manila, following Upstart Production’s Company and the Philippine Opera Company’s Passion.

 

LEA SALONGA
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