Bwog wunderkind Marcus Levine caught the premiere of Crown and Scepter’s production of Sweeny Todd.

Though extensive in its size and depth, university theater scenes are fundamentally limited: they primarily appeal to and perform for students. Crown and Scepter Theater Company, founded by Joseph Rozenshtein (CC ’12/SIPA ’13) and Mitchell Feinberg (SEAS ’13), opens these insular groups to the wider community this week with their first production, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, directed by Rozenshtein with musical direction by Feinberg.

Sweeney Todd tells the story of a barber in Victorian London seeking revenge on a pedophiliac judge who sent the barber to prison in Australia in order to steal his wife. Michael Carter (CC ’14) makes his premiere to the Columbia community as a snarling Sweeney, powering through the challenging musical score with a sadistic candor that draws the audience into the demon barber’s deranged worldview.

Andrew Wright (CC ’14) fills the role of Anthony Hope, the bright-eyed young sailor who rescues Todd from his doom on the high seas. Wright smoothly captures the genuine anticipation of a youthful lover with a brilliantly tackled vocal performance and authentic expressions. The object of his love, Johanna, is played by Kyra Bloom (BC ’15) whose elegant innocence captures the essence of her character, while she provides a near-professional vocal performance.

As the first production of a brand new theater group, budget constraints and space requirements play a major role in the shaping the final performance. The set does more than enough to suggest the setting of the piece but often gets in the way of the actors on the small stage, obfuscating the action. The actors do well in working around the small performance space, but slow exeunts break the tension of the piece. Rozenshtein does take advantage of the budget by using many pantomimed actions, which the actors had clearly rehearsed extensively to achieve believability.

Crown and Scepter Theater Company is a group with a mission, and though their production value may not yet live up to their position on the Great White Way, they are clearly a group of talented people with a passion for the art. The cast and crew of Sweeney Todd will perform twice more tomorrow, Friday November 4th at 5:30 pm and 9:00 pm in the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater of the Symphony Space at 95th Street and Broadway.

Shaving implement via wikimedia.