Recommended: ‘Sweeney Todd’ is a triumph for local troupe

“Sweeney Todd” has its final four performances this weekend, and you mustn’t miss it, whether you are steeped in the show, like me, or new to its grisly, Grand Guignol charms.

There are moments in life when you find yourself wishing that something would never end: a sparkling conversation, a sumptuous meal, an idyllic vacation, or a lover’s embrace.

For me, that rare feeling also is evoked by great art, as I rip through the pages of a work of fiction, binge on award-winning television, gaze at a great painting or a hallucinatory film, or, as it so happens, listen for the 4,000th time to the lush score of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” — a macabre masterpiece of musical theater by Stephen Sondheim.

I wish it would just go on and on and on.

I’m far from the first to have felt this way about Sondheim’s definitive musical thriller, set in Victorian-era London, involving murder, meat pies and undying love. Perhaps it is because Sondheim’s show reminds me and so many others of over-the-top art forms: Broadway, of course, but also horror movies, melodrama, Brechtian epic theater and even opera.

And now, as a “Sweeney Todd” evangelist, it is my joyful task to steer you to see the show right here on Vashon, in an incandescent production co-presented by Vashon Repertory Theatre and Island Time Productions.

The show has its final four performances this weekend, and you mustn’t miss it, whether you are steeped in the show, like me, or new to its grisly, Grand Guignol charms.

However, to write this review is to risk running out of superlatives for the local production’s artistic staff, cast and crew — the show is that good.

Directed with enormous skill by Charlotte Tiencken, Vashon’s “Sweeney” features a fierce ensemble of 16 actors, who grab onto the roller coaster of a show and don’t ever let go, delivering indelible performances.

Bradley J. Thomas, a Kansas City actor, completely inhabits the title role of the vengeful barber, and islander Stephanie Murray seems born to play and sing the role of Todd’s amoral, pie-making partner in crime, Mrs. Lovett.

Both deliver high-octane performances that are, in turn, highly comic and completely terrifying, just as Sondheim intended.

Simply put, Murray’s performance floored me — and remember, this is coming from someone who knows every note of the character as sung by Angela Lansbury and Patti LuPone. How fortunate we are to have such a talent in our midst.

Oliver Callahan, a gifted tenor who is making his Vashon debut in the romantic role of Anthony, is superb, as is soprano Sydney Penticuff, another mainlander who plays the ingenue role of Joanna. Their duets are sublime.

Olympia-based singer and actor Timothy Wilds ably tackles the role of Judge Turpin, a malignant magistrate whose machinations set the whole tragic plot in motion.

But as always, in Vashon productions, there is also the thrill of seeing the island’s very own constellation of local stars in the supporting cast — both those who still live here and those who have moved on to pursue their calling to the theater on the mainland.

In “Sweeney Todd,” these luminaries include islander Arlette Moody, who brings not only her strong soprano voice to her role as the Beggar Woman but also adds something I have never before seen in the role: a dancer’s flowing instincts to the tortured character’s movements.

Chris Boscia, in his work in the ensemble and the small but scary role of Boggs, is also tremendously fun to watch.

Max Lopuszynski absolutely shines in the slimy, villainous role of Beadle, and Hailey Howell Quackenbush brings great charm and vulnerability to the pivotal role of Tobias, an innocent teenager who becomes entangled in the web of Todd’s and Mrs. Lovett’s wrongdoing. Miles Wingett also completely delights in the scene-stealing role of Pirelli, an operatic imposter who makes the fatal mistake of trying to swindle Todd.

And, oh! There is a moment when Lopuszynski and Wingett sing together, for just a moment, that will blow your mind. Wait for it.

Much praise is also due to an array of behind-the-scene geniuses involved in the show.

Musical director and conductor Christopher Overstreet, with co-arrangers and instrumentalists Kevin Nortness, Ken Jacobsen and Jesse Whitford, all bring their A-game to performing the show’s intricate and almost impossibly difficult score — which plays under the action of almost 80 percent of the show.

Sound designer Max Sarkowsky deserves kudos for his great skill in finding the perfect balance between the pounding accompaniment and the voices of the singers. Sarkowsky has delivered the warmest, brightest, and most seamlessly amplified production of musical theater that I have ever heard on Vashon.

The show’s costumes — created completely from recycled fabrics by designer Tesse Crocker — are stunning.

Choreography by Elizabeth Klob, and set and lighting design by Robin Nettles and Newt Carkonen, also add to the immersive experience of the show.

But in this long list of people who deserve praise for “Sweeney Todd,” there is one more person who has undoubtedly inspired greatness from the company of the show — Marshall Murray, the late and great leading man of many local productions, to whom the show is dedicated.

Marshall, who died suddenly and much too soon in January of 2021, was married to Stephanie Murray and lit up the stage with her in many unforgettable shows on Vashon. He was one of Bradley J. Thomas’ best friends, and many of the actors in “Sweeney Todd” also shared the stage with Marshall over the years — and learned from him to take no prisoners as they trod the boards.

In a program note and a pre-curtain speech, director Tiencken described how she, Marshall and Stephanie had dreamed of doing “Sweeney Todd” together on Vashon.

Now, with this stellar production, one can almost feel Marshall’s presence in the wings, or the back row of the Kay White Hall, cheering on the company of “Sweeney Todd.”

You should go cheer them on, too. And who knows? Perhaps, like me, you’ll get that great feeling, at the curtain call, that you wish the show would start all over again.

“Sweeney Todd” evening performances will take place Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24 and 25, at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are scheduled Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25 and 26, at 2 p.m. Tickets, including a pay-what-you-can option, are on sale at

All performances take place at Vashon Center for the Arts. Find out more and donate to Vashon Repertory Theatre at