A barber slits a customer’s throat and sends his body down a chute.
“We call that ‘the sliding board of death,’ ” said Michael Marone, technical director of the macabre musical “Sweeney Todd,” which concludes this weekend at Theatre at the Grove in Nuangola.
Audiences can see Sweeney’s victims drop through a trap door and emerge in the bakery below, where Mrs. Lovett bakes them into her notorious meat pies.
Mrs. Lovett is Sweeney’s landlady, and if you ask Alice Lyons, she’s at least a little in love with the crazed barber upstairs. She’s also blacker of heart.
“She’s definitely more evil than Sweeney,” said Lyons, who plays the frightful baker. “He’s working out of revenge and heartbreak. I think she just delights in the fact she’s feeding human flesh to people who buy her pies.”
“Most people think it’s just a macabre, disgusting story,” Marone said, “but at its very root it’s a political statement. (Lyricist Stephen) Sondheim is making a statement that the rich and well-to-do were taking advantage of the less fortunate.”
So, if you know that Sweeney was banished to a penal colony for years, on trumped-up charges, so that a judge could have his way with Sweeney’s wife — maybe you’ll think he’s justified in the meting out revenge.
In keeping with the subject matter cast members use makeup to give themselves a “jaundiced, sick look,” Marone explained.
“Our eyes look bloodshot and bruised, worn and tired,” Lyons said, adding that effect can take 20 to 30 minutes to achieve, much more time than the five minutes actors might devote to makeup when they want to look fresh and attractive.
With more than a little horror in the mix, small wonder the Nuangola troupe chose it to coincide with Halloween.
The production has been bringing in a new demographic, people in their teens and 20s, Marone said. That’s in addition to the “usual people who go to musical theater, who are at least in their 40s.”