Reviews: Sweeney Todd - Michigan Opera Theatre

Reviews: Sweeney Todd

More about this production.

Joe/Joanne - Novi

absolutely loved it. Fabulous performances and orchestra. This is the 3rd time I have seen ST live and the MOT production was the best.


Terry - Hale

I've seen many performances of Sweeney Todd including the videotape of the original with Lansbury and the movie. No question this was far and away my favorite. Excellent singing. Excellent performance. Some parts even brought me to tears. Loved it!!


Jesse - Dearborn

This was my third time at the MOT and I was very excited to see Sweeney Todd live, having only seen the movie adaptation. The cast was absolutely wonderful, their voices were perfect, their acting pulling you into the story and engaging the audience. Each cast member seemed to be a perfect fit for their role. The orchestra was wonderful as always.


TYMN - Detroit

Wow. This is the first "nontraditional" work I've seen at MOT, and I was blown away. The orchestra sounded amazing, likewise the chorus, and every single soloist was of the highest calibre. I'm more of a traditional Opera fan, but I do love Sondheim, and this was by far the best Sweeney Todd performance I've ever seen! Thank you, MOT!! Now, I'd LOVE to see A Little Night Music soon!!

I see that some have commented on sound problems. I saw the matinee Sunday, and I certainly didn't notice any (and I'm about as picky as they come...). From the Main Floor it looked like a sell out crowd, and I saw lots of folks that I'm guessing are not "the average Opera goer". I saw nothing but big smiles on audience faces when it was over!


AM - Ann Arbor

MOT opera performances always surprise me. This is one was no exception. Each performer brought different strengths to the piece. Stephen Powell's solid voice and stance provided a fine foundation to the piece. Zlemba's high-energy character was a perfect compliment to the main performer. Her enunciation and accent were amazing and an extreme pleasure to hear. Unfortunately, I did not care so much for the voice pairing of Owens and Hackman. I thought the style and lower voice range of Owens did not quite fit in with the rest of the opera/musical. Nonetheless, Ramsey, with and his incredibly delicious high register and the overall vocal and acting performance of Knapp made this performance! (Knapp's mad scene was impeccable). I am glad that I came!


Jean - Rochester

I loved it! Thankfully the performance I saw wasn't plagued with mic problems like some other reviewers mentioned, and everything seemed to go smoothly on stage.

The performances were wonderful, and I wish there was a professional recording of this cast that I could listen to again and again. The first "Johanna," "Johanna Reprise" and "Green Finch and Linnet Bird" (a song I normally can't stand but Amy Owens injected it with such a sad sweetness that I hated for the song to end!) were especially gorgeous.

The only downside was the crew in work clothes coming onto stage... very out of place and I don't remember seeing anything like this in other MOT productions. Even having them in something as basic as black dress clothes with an old fashioned newsboy cap would have made them less jarring.


Jeff N - Livonia

Sweeney Todd was magnificent. The first act seemed to drag on at parts, but the second act blew me away. I didn’t I know what to expect for this performance, and was very pleased. Bravo to the cast!! I will continue to see shows here in the future.


Lorraine - Rochester Hills

Terrific - Wonderful - Singing - Music - Acting


Harriet - Detroit

Excellent performance of a gripping and difficult-to-watch operatic story. I will admit it almost gave me nightmares - and I certainly won't be eating meat pies for a while! I won't get into an argument of whether i was "musical theater" or "opera" - as part of the variety of performances in a season it was a good choice.
Extremely well sung and an interesting staging. Key performers were superb; chorus was fine. I wish we had supertitles for the speeches as well, since they are very important in terms of the plot, and the excellent cockney accent of Mrs. Lovett was hard to understand (when she spoke, not when she sang- that was just fine!) as were some of the other comments. (But that may just be me.)

I didn't mind the mike - I note other reviewers did. I note other reviewers also thought those that moved the stage props around "should have been in costume" - I felt that they were in costume!

The fact that we have so many different opinions in previous "reviews" is good - it makes us think about the performance in different ways after we have seen it. I like having operas I haven't seen- or ones that I saw so long ago I can't remember them.

I was sorry to see the relatively small audience (upstairs - I don't know about the orchestra level). I look forward to the spring selection.


Norman - Troy

Very enjoyable overall and well executed production of this work. Excellent work from all the singers with Powell and Zaremba leading the way. The amplification was done well for the most part except for a miking glitch here and there. It may spoil people who go to normal opera and expect that kind of volume though.

Generally, I'm in favor of programming a light opera or musical now and then, especially since it seems to bring in an audience that might not otherwise attend. Sweeney Todd is a particularly good choice in this regard.


Brigitte - Windsor

This was a WONDERFUL performance. I was not expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. The performers were top notch, the singing very high quality, the show kept us engaged and involved. A very pleasant surprise indeed. Thank you MOT for bringing this to Detroit.


Mark Brock - Clarkston

We loved it! Our 1st time to the MOT and with more shows like this we may come back. Mic problems aside, the cast was excellent in both acting and vocals. Sweeney was exceptional and the rest of the main cast were stupendous as well.
One small problem was with the closed captioning however. It's very distracting for the performance. There are other technologies out there that can serve the same function for those that need it.

Curious as to why the cube wasn't used as much. Perhaps due to the size of the stage? Seems like they missed a design opportunity there and yes if the crew is on stage they should be in costume.


Dan - Rochester Hills

Great voices. Great choral work. Great acting. Great orchestration. But this ain't opera to me. MOT is the best place to see genuine opera in Detroit. We can see musical theater all over the place every week. This is not even a convincing operetta. Just saying. But see what you think. For my money I hope this is an experiment but not the beginning of a trend.


Jim and Mary Streeter - Ypsilanti

We have been attending Wednesday operas for many years and we do not remember such a long and loud standing ovation at the end of any performances as it was last night. It was also the first time that virtually no one rushed out before the ovation was complete.

The voices were all great and while the opera itself is a little different, it was a wonderful production.


Lynne - Detroit

I have been a subscriber and donor for many years and it doesn't bother me if MOT includes a quality musical as part of the season. Nevertheless, I was sort of dreading this performance having never seen Sweeney Todd before. First, the subject matter just seemed outrageous and second, I am not a big fan of Sondheim. To my amazement, I thought that this was a terrific night at the opera house. The production was much deeper and sensitive than I had expected and the singers were all well-cast for their particular roles. To me it doesn't really matter whether you call this an opera or a Broadway style musical, as long as the audience understands that different demands are being made of the artists and you cannot compare an amplified voice to an unamplified one. I usually do not like amplification in the theatre. The use of it in modern Broadway productions has become earsplitting and the sound so homogenized that everything sounds the same. From my seat in the Trustee Circle last night, I was pleasantly surprised that the amplification worked as well as it did. It made it easier to understand the spoken dialogue and I'm sure that it was easier on the singers who were expected to do quite a bit of moving around. Yes, there were a couple of glitches, but I was still impressed that the amplification was pretty much unobtrusive from where I was sitting. In fact, I say bravo to the sound engineer.


Katherine Nonte - Sterling Heights

What an amazing performance. This was a great opportunity to bring someone to an opera who may have an interest. Sweeney Todd gave a modern glow to opera and holds all the artistic values you want in opera, with a story some may relate to the movie. It was a great night out! Thank you for a great performance!


Jean, Sondheim Lover - Dearborn Heights

The first time I saw “Sweeney Todd” was in London, England in 1980. It was my introduction to Sondheim and to this day he remains my favorite composer of musicals. I felt this was a very good production. I especially loved the voices of the principal singers. What I most appreciate about Sondheim is his music which I find beautifully harmonic. His lyrics are great, too. That said, I think I liked MOT’s 1984 production better.


Margaret Winters - Grosse Pointe

It was a great production - strong singing and fine acting. As someone who loves both opera and musical theatre, I am hard pressed to categorize "Sweeney Todd" - I saw it on Broadway when it was first performed and have seen it elsewhere as well. It certainly has the complexity of music and plot of operas and, as someone said, the body count to match more operas than musicals. The fact that it was in English is not a criterion - think of Handel's and Purcell's operas in the early repertoire, and Benjamin Britten, and so on from the early 20th century onward on both sides of the Atlantic. It deserves opera stage productions!


Bryan - Royal Oak

Excellent production. However tech was sloppy - and why were the tech people not in some sort of costume? Distracting.


CorinneO - Bingham Farms

Sensational, fabulous--it is one of the best things that MOT has ever done. I loved all of the casting and especially loved Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett. The orchestra and choir were great too. I would recommend this production to anyone who loves Sondheim. And I consider it an opera.


Seuby01 - Roseville

Great performance and experience. The performers did a great job with their roles and music. Act 1's humor was great and Act 2 brought the story to a good conclusion. Special effects were great. Recommend this performance as long as the people can handle the subject.


Geoff - Grosse Pointe

A terrific production, and I've seen several and been in one. Simple sets (agree that they seemed a little amateurish, but no big deal). Excellent singing, real acting, orchestra great. Chorus sounded good and was appropriately creepy as customers, inhabitants of Bedlam and Greek Chorus.

I understand why this is a cross-over show--it's very operatic in parts, Broadway-ish in others. I have no problem with opera companies doing musical theatre that's on the line.

I agree with some of the posters that the decision to mike all the singers was an error, especially since there seemed to be balance problems. Overall a powerful production that certainly belonged at the Opera House.


Lew - West Bloomfield

Great Fun. Call it Mopera. Sets, costumes, accents, colorful language, singing, all fantastic.


B - Ferndale

audio department needs to wake up - open mics all over the place including one very clear "oh f**k" from offstage, key mics NOT open when they should be.
Factory whistle sounded like a flatulent mule.


Mar Sclawy - West Bloomfield

What a marvelous combination of voices, lyrics and music. I'm not a big Sondheim fan, but this Sweeney hit on all three. Musical? Opera? Who cares? It was a wonderful evening of entertainment by a superb cast of singers. (And yes, body count does suggest opera.)


Damian Marquez - Detroit

It was a marvelous production. Performances, music, scenario; it was all top notch. I'm more than amazed by the talent of the whole cast.


KP - Lathrup Village

Enjoyed this production of Sweeney Todd! The cast was on point, the staging was excellent, and I heard the sets were from the original London show. For those who are not familiar with the story, it is dark with comedic elements, but never gets very gory. It also toes the line between opera and musical theater as only Sondheim can.


Bri - Auburn Hills

Very enjoyable performance! I have not been able to go to musicals/ballets/symphonies for a while and have been tentatively looking for shows to attend - the experience was so positive I will definitely keep attending performances at MOT and elsewhere!


Bill Betz - Clinton Township

Great performance but lousy opera. It really isn't an opera but a musical. When will we see Turendot, La Boheme, La Traviatta, and more of the classic operas?


Opera Lover - Rochester

From all of us who were beguiled into contributing to the M Opera T to bring great music to Detroit, I hope those who enjoyed Tweeny Sodd will be equally supportive. Rather rent to the musical producers and keep our investment to support the vision of David Di


Janice - Rochester Hills

This was a fantastic production of Sweeney Todd. The cast was first-rate! Voices were beautiful and acting was great. Anyone who loves Sondheim, or anyone who loves good theatre, should see this show!


Paul Wemhoff - Grosse Pointe Farms

I am an opera subscriber, and perhaps don't appreciate Sondheim as other musical theater patrons do.

That said, here is what was disturbed me: There was a lengthy article in the program notes that described how to distinguish a musical from an opera. Chief among them was that opera (and crossover musicals performed in opera houses) were sung with big voices which were not amplified. Well, in this production, there were a couple of big voices that did not need amplification, but everyone else was aided by microphone. The sound imbalance was very noticeable.

I have seen so-called crossover musicals performed in Sante Fe and Glimmerglass entirely without amplification and with big voices. So, my suggestion is this: if you want to add musicals with heavy amplification, put them in a separate series. I do not want to pay for them as part of my traditional "grand opera" series.


Ron - Bloomfield Hills

A defining production of Sweeney. You won’t see one better. The voices and acting are incredible Highly recommend.


Amanda - LaSalle IL

Excellent production. The cast was great, especially with a difficult score to sing. Definitely recommend


Jayson - Chatham, Ontario

As a relative newcomer to opera and with no musical/acting training, experience or talent, I loved it. Not sure it was an “opera” per se but given my neophyte ears I think I enjoyed this more. The set was fine and the chair was fantastic. The sound issues were a bit of a disappointment. The story was gruesome and macabre as it should be. The musical score was complicated but worked with some catchy melodies. The singing was absolutely amazing. Some very talented people sharing their gifts with us. More people need to go to the Opera or musicals! The Opera house itself and the dinner we had at the Cadillac Cafe were, as always fantastic.


Robert Hage - Rochester Hills

Here is my suggestion when you consider adding musicals like this to my OPERA subscription. Don’t.


Mary - Auburn Hills

If you want to see Sweeney Todd, THIS is the production to see. Precise, electric, and riveting. Top notch! Amazing considering the difficult score!


Nancy - Redford

Thoughts: Excellent from start to finish! Not a dull moment. Some of the songs are actually catchy. The actors and singers are excellent. It was like musical theatre with strong opera voices. What an enjoyable experience!


Old Fahrer - Rochester Hills

I thought we were going to the opera and then we saw and heard ……! Most disappointed.


beth ann - Royal Oak

The performance was marred by the audio engineering which was just awful. Crackling, and several hot mics. A shame as it really distracted and made the performance feel amateurish. The performers deserve better.


Carl H. Carl - Southfield

Disclaimer: I was an on-stage street character turning the cube set piece in MOT’s 1984 production of Sweeney Todd so my opinion is influenced by that also great production.

I loved this show (Sat. Nov. 16). It’s a work of genius. Witty and clever and funny with very dark humor. The storyline and motivation of the characters is much more plausible and convincing than most operas. The music is haunting.

Sorry, but the set, sadly, doesn’t measure up to the 1984 production. Looks like it was designed and built built by high school students. for their own production. To nake sure my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me, I looked up some archive photos. Like the set designer should have.

But who cares? The show and cast is so strong they could play it on a bare stage and it would work. Sweeney has a fabulous voice and Mrs. Lovett has magnificent comic timing. She hit every comic note on the nose. A seemingly minor character at first, Toby, ends up grabbing your heartstrings. Likewise, watch the old beggar woman. We end up carrying far more for her than we thought we would.

In the “debate” about whether this is opera or musical theatre, I’d argue that it’s musical theatre, because we the audience become much more emotionally involved with the characters and the story. In opera the often implausible story line is sometimes just a pretense to set up the next aria. In this show the magnificent, haunting Sondheim music isn’t just wonderful, it serves the story and helps move it along. Music and story are completely intertwined.

Of course one point in favor of calling it an opera is the body count at the end. But in Sweeney, we are much more emotionally invested in those lost souls than in most operas.

Enjoy! It’s magnificent.

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