Murder Center Stage

The rough draft first paragraph of Gwen’s review of the musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” was typed out on her computer just before she left her near west side efficiency apartment for downtown Cleveland’s Hedley Theatre. It read:

All of us deserve to die. So sings the homicidal [or deranged, perhaps unhinged] title character in “Sweeney Todd,” which reinforces the pitch-black theme that drives this remarkably angry, bleak, and brilliant musical. Set in grimy [or grungy or decaying] 19th century London, we find the barber avenging his wrongful imprisonment and the senseless destruction of his fledgling family by whittling away at his clueless clientele and turning the fruits of his labor into meat pies to be sold in the shop below.

The paragraph was to be revised and the review fleshed out with astute observations, carefully honed opinions, and clever writing upon her return from the standing-room only opening night show, just as I had taught her to do. The driven and ever-opportunistic arts journalism intern was asked to review the show during my temporary leave as the theater critic for the Cleveland Jewish Chronicle, so I could be in the show and write about the experience.

After its completion, the review would then be posted in time for tomorrow morning’s deadline and published in the next issue of the paper. Instead, it was recovered from Gwen’s laptop by the police.

The small spiral notepad she used while watching the North Coast Theater production was no doubt filled with insightful reflections about this evening’s performance – the acting choices, the rendering of Sweeney’s decrepit Fleet Street dwelling, and the goth-inspired costuming. But very little was legible because of the blood.

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