The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools.
Walking into the auditorium at Woodland Hills High School, surrounded by portraits of previous shows, you face the beautifully executed set of scaffolding and beams crisscrossing, which created the illusion of a crowded and clustered cityscape. As soon as the lights went down, the audience was plunged into the action.
After the first number, and throughout the show, I was very surprised to find that the cast was up to a professional grade. In fact, I've seen lesser shows from adult actors.
The special effects were a wonderful contribution and enhanced the show enormously. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality. Interestingly, the stage crew sat onstage for the majority of the show posing as street dwellers, which added to effect of a crowded and poor city setting. The transitions went off seamlessly. tThe set had a very clever design and the set pieces were utilized well. I thought the rotating interior that was used as a pie shop, barber shop, cellar, and parlor worked well.
Sweeney Todd, played by Daniel Mayhak, did an especially impressive job as the monstrous demon barber of Fleet Street. He maintained power, volume, and sensitivity throughout the core of the show. I felt that his voice was particularly strong and gave him great stage presence. Mrs. Lovett, played by Anna Yezovich, was funny, charismatic, and full of energy. She held her own while singing the unforgiving fast paced songs in an authentic sounding accent. Lovett and Todd had a wonderful and sinister chemistry.
The supporting cast was spectacular as well. Grace Belmonte as Johanna and Jake Hellwig as Anthony did well together. Both had terrific voices and very mature acting capabilities. Alexandra Aks as the Beggar Woman also had an outstanding voice and acting talents. The entire cast was grounded by a strong ensemble, with each member shining through and acting with purpose.
The songs and story stay with you long after the cast takes their bows,. As a matter of fact I found myself humming one of Mrs. Lovett's tunes just the other day. The show itself draws you in with an interesting story, including plot twists and turns that leave you enveloped in a sense of wonder and awe . . . and also an avoidance of meat pies for some time.
Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson. For more high school musicals coverage, go to http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/theater-dance/ and scroll down.