Alex Mendoza hits all the correct flamboyant notes as the mountebank Pirelli, who pays with his life for trying to blackmail Todd. E. Scott Levin is a perfect Judge Turpin, grim and humorless, and Robert Norman drips unctuous hypocrisy as the Beadle. As the Beggar Woman, Rachel Payne conceals her features under a veil, which has the unfortunate effect of muffling her voice as well.
The excellent nine-piece orchestra, conducted by Stephen Karr, occasionally makes it challenging to hear the singers, but it otherwise brings a richness to the piece that would do a much larger production proud. And the voices are top-notch, particularly those of the leads. Certainly Meyer and Carlin's duet of "A Little Priest" is as satisfying and enjoyable as Cariou and Lansbury's original.
As directed and designed by Josh Shaw, this Todd works wonders with a small stage, and the large chorus, like the orchestra, helps give it a big-production feel. Maggie Green's period costumes are also excellent, and everyone – even the musicians – is appropriately made up to look malnourished, diseased, and mad.
As I said at the outset, this is dark stuff, but when it's as superbly staged as Pacific Opera's production, it's mesmerizing.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street plays at the Porticoes Theater in Pasadena until October 28, moving to the Miles Memorial Playhouse until it closes November 4. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (323) 739-6122.
Photo: Phil Meyer and Amanda Carlin (Josh Shaw)