Pennsylvania Playhouse has delivered a darkly delightful production of the Stephen Sondheim musical "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," at 390 Illicks Mill Road, Bethlehem through Oct. 22.

The show creates a slightly ominous environment before the production even begins as the downtrodden appearing cast members prowl the stage and among the audience.

"The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" begins with the cast as a grim Greek chorus, singing Sondheims distinctive harmonies from all over the theater for an immersive effect.

Sweeney Todd, a barber bent on bloody vengeance for wrongs done to him years earlier is very well played by Nick Conti, who imbues Sweeney with a simmering rage. He stands out on songs that showcase Sweeneys all-consuming fury, such as the sinister "My Friends," and the rage-filled "Epiphany."Sweeney

Jonathan Riker exudes a virtuous naivete as Anthony Hope, the young sailor who helps Sweeney and unknowingly falls in love with his daughter Johanna. Riker fills Anthony with a sincere passion and sings sweetly on "Johanna."

Grace Oddo is sweet and a bit flighty as the beleaguered Johanna. She displays a lovely soprano on "Green Finch and Linnet Bird."

As Mrs. Lovett, the opportunistic pie shop owner, Beth Linzer provides some of the comedy relief. Linzers relentlessly cheery Mrs. Lovett is a delight and great foil to Contis gloomy Sweeney. She does well with her songs, especially since the character has some of the quickest and most complex lyrics.

A highlight is Linzer and Contis duet "A Little Priest," which is hilarious despite its deliciously wicked lyrics.

Robert Trexler is appropriately pompous and self-serving as the leering, lustful judge who destroyed Sweeneys life, and Sean McFarland gives a humorous note to the judges oily lackey Beadle Bamford.

As the Beggar Woman, Alexis Connolly is a constant presence, as she hauntingly sings her song, at one moment pleading, the next lascivious and ultimately ominous.

Mason McGowans turn as Adolpho Pirelli is over-the-top and funny, although brief. Dylan Penyak also provides some humor as the innocently simple Tobias Ragg. Penyak memorably leads the cast in the rousing "God, Thats Good," and delivers a poignant "Not While Im Around."

Overall, the cast is outstanding, successfully attacking Sondheims harmonies and counterpoints.

Darah Donaher, who directed and choreographed, keeps the momentum moving forward throughout and takes full advantage of the playhouses entire space. Alex Garridos music direction is tight and Todd Burkel and Heather Sheldons costumes are just right.

Brett Oliveiras two level set works well and his clever design on Sweeneys body-disposing barbers chair elicited laughs on its own.

To make sure all of the performances will be covered in case of illness, there are eight actors who are covering the lead roles. These cover actors also will perform in the Oct. 14 show.

They are Gregory Wintle as Sweeney Todd cover, Moriah Wilt as Mrs. Lovett cover, Ava Sardi as Tobias Ragg cover, Matthew Asti as Judge Turpin cover, Robert Torres as Beadle Bamford cover, Carina Cohen as Johanna cover, Marquett Ferrell as Adolpho Pirelli cover and Megan Amorino as Beggar Woman cover.

Masks are not required but are strongly encouraged.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and $15 for students.

There will be a fundraising performance to benefit Rotary District 7430 Rotaplast Program on Oct. 21. Tickets for that performance are $49 and include complimentary beverages and food. and a cast talk back after the show.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13, 14, 20 and 21; and 3 p.m. Oct. 15 and 22.

For information, call 610-865-6665, or go to