Wolf Trap Opera continued its annual summer showcase of young singers Friday night with a semi-staged performance of Sweeney Todd at Wolf Trap’s main stage, on an evening where the heat was bad enough and humidity worse, and rain threatened, but didn’t actually fall. But perhaps they should have held it in the Barns; it turns out the mental intimacy of the musical doesn’t carry well towards the back, and the sound problems at the beginning didn’t help. In fact, hearing and understanding the choruses for must of the show was a problem, though the singers being showcased in the main roles mostly had voices that carried well enough. But not everything could carry. Even from a distance, Anthony Micheal McGee’s Todd invoked the most pathos I’ve seen out of the three Sweeney Todds I’ve seen and remembered so far(which of course includes Johnny Depp), but the intensity of his acting couldn’t help but be diluted by the set-up. Margaret Gawrysiak also stood out as Mrs. Lovett; she had presence enough to reach the rafters.
I’ve since read the heat was so bad in fact they were worried about the sound system and the microphones malfunctioning because of the singers sweating so much, and that everyone was supplied with Gatorade(though the bottles were visible under the red chairs that were set up for the scene changes) and wore cold gel packs. But I have to give them credit; they made it absorbing enough that eventually I stopped noticing the heat(the sun going down helped too though). In fact, the audience gave the show a huge standing ovation.