I know it sounds a bit flaky (pun absolutely intended) but when we heard that there would be a new off-Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s Tony Award-winning musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at Barrow Street Theatre, Lynn and I could barely contain our excitement.
There were a number of reasons, of course. First, we had seen a Sweeney Todd production years ago by a traveling tour back when we lived in Arizona, and it was very, very good. But we had always regretted that we hadn’t caught it while in New York. Second, we knew from previous Off-Broadway adventures–take, for example, In the Heights–that plays and musicals at smaller venues offer a much more intimate experience. Third, we had never seen a show at beloved Barrow Street Theatre in the West Village, though we’d passed by it so many times during our other excursions. And finally, we’d read that the revival began in London a few years back and was produced after-hours at Harrington’s Pie and Mash, one of London’s oldest pie shops, and that Barrow Street Theatre had painstakingly re-created the shop inside the venue.
And on all counts, we were not disappointed. The production was excellent, as intimate and interactive as we’d hoped. The stage design was inspired: the historic space featured tiles, grimy yellow walls, a narrow countertop, and a menu board which included daily specials. It was like actually stepping into Harrington’s. Audience members were seated at dining tables in lieu of traditional theater seats, and the talented Sweeney Todd cast utilized the entire “pie shop”–both upper and lower levels–as their performance area. The actors pulled audience members into the show. They also consorted with us in the lobby during intermission. (We overheard the evil judge asking a couple of audience members where they were seated. When they looked nervous, he said “At least I’m not the demon barber!”)
And there are real pies! As part of a pre-show experience, former White House Pastry chef, Bill Yosses, is offering theatergoers a meal of pie and mash in the theater/pie shop. Sweeney Todd at the Barrow Street Theatre is a fun update to a classic, and an unforgettable immersive theater experience.
Visit their website for additional information and tickets.
Tip: $39 lottery tickets are available for each performance and you can try your luck here. And if the interactive part of this experience scares you, shoot for seats in the front row of the balcony. You’ll have a great view but remain separate from most of the action.
Pair it with:
Savory pie at Jones Wood Foundry
Lynn and I decided to forgo the pre-theater pie (though, by all accounts, it was quite good), instead opting for a selection that our readers might enjoy sans this theater experience. But that doesn’t mean we opted out of the theme! Meat pies are sort of the grisly gimmick of the musical, so of course we visited a British Pub.
Jones Wood Foundry, an Upper East Side gem (yep, I used “gem” and “Upper East Side” in the same sentence) describes itself as a casually elegant, food-centric pub with a friendly staff, an expansive bar and a secret courtyard. And they weren’t lying. The food, particularly the savory pie, is well above what one would expect from a pub.
On this particular occasion, I went with the Pie of the Day, a delectable chicken and vegetable pie. The staff is not only friendly, but also knowledgeable and attentive. The bar in the front is separate from the more intimate dining area below, serving both casual drinkers and serious diners simultaneously. And that “secret courtyard”? Yeah, it’s lovely. The weather happened to be perfect on that spring evening and we took full advantage. The whole experience was so enjoyable, we couldn’t help but linger just a bit longer than we would normally find appropriate.