My Land’s Shore and Sweeney Todd

Ghost The Musical and Matilda The Musical are probably the 2011 success stories of London West End theatre; both shows boasting terrific casts, they have had great reviews from critics and audiences just can’t seem to get enough. With the year drawing to a close though it begs the question: which shows are going to be the hits of 2012?

I mentioned in one of last week’s blogs how excited I am for the potential of two new shows; Houdini The Musical and My Land’s Shore, and on Friday, I was ever more convinced by the latter.

I spent last Friday in the INC Space studios in Covent Garden, where recording was taking place for one of the musical’s ensemble numbers. A cast album, featuring fifteen of the musical’s tracks, is due for release in January after the show’s writers, Christopher Orton and Bob Gould, made a funding appeal on Sponsume. They reached their minimum target last week, although the opportunity to continue supporting the musical extends until the end of the month.

Friday’s recording session was for the seven minute-long opening ensemble number, sung by a group of musical theatre performers; some who had taken part in the first ensemble day and some new. A few of My Land’s Shore’s leading cast were also there, including Gareth Richards, Rhiannon S. Porter, Kelly-Anne Gower and Dic Penderyn himself, Jonathan Williams. They were also joined by one of the musical’s newest recruits, Killian Donnelly, currently to be seen at Her Majesty’s Theatre playing Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera.

I fell in love with the music the first time I heard it, and this number didn’t disappoint. What was so beautiful about this one was the way it came together: notes were shared out between the sopranos, the altos, the tenors, etc. and, wonderful as each part sounds on its own, it’s when they are all put together that you experience the full effect. The music is powerfully affecting and captivating to the ears – the people there who hadn’t heard the music before couldn’t stop enthusing over it. It was Killian Donnelly’s first recording session since getting involved and his vocals sounded tremendous – Orton and Gould certainly made a good choice in him.

More recording sessions are lined up for this week, with Donnelly again, along with other main cast members such as Mark Evans. Alexis James was in recording last week and according to Orton, makes for a very ‘sinister baddie’.

There is such a buzz surrounding My Land’s Shore and it’s a thrill to see such a level of support for a piece of new writing. I’ve enjoyed getting involved at this early stage of the creative process and seeing its momentum snowballing as more and more people get behind it; this musical is going to be a major factor in 2012’s theatre scene.

Another show I see doing very well next year is Sweeney Todd which, after a winning run at the Chichester Festival Theatre, announced the news of its West End transfer over the weekend. The revived production of Sondheim’s musical comes to the Adelphi Theatre on 10th March 2012, taking over from One Man, Two Guvnors.

Michael Ball stars as Sweeney Todd, the ‘demon barber’ who seeks revenge on the prominent Judge Turpin for the loss of his wife and daughter, while Imelda Staunton co-stars as Todd’s pie-baking accomplice Mrs Lovett. They are joined by Lucy May Barker (Joanna), Peter Polycarpou (Beadle Bamford), John Bowe (Jude Turpin), Luke Brady (Anthony), Robert Burt (Pirelli), Gillian Kirkpatrick (Beggar Woman) and James McConville (Tobias).

Sweeney Todd is a favourite of mine, so I’m looking forward to seeing director Jonathan Kent’s revival come to London. The musical was last seen here in 2005, playing in a selection of venues. It won two Whatsonstage.com Awards and went on to secure two Tony Awards when it transferred to Broadway. Audiences in Chichester have given Sweeney Todd a very positive response, especially surprised by the unrecognisable Michael Ball who has slimmed down and also grown a goatee for the role.

It is a dark and rather macabre musical, but in a way, I think that’s just what the West End needs. We have a multitude of light and fluffy productions, from the camp ‘oh-my-God’ Legally Blonde to the panto-ish Shrek, so a little bit of darkness is just what the doctor ordered to offset that. Sometimes people go to the theatre for a light-hearted, fun evening and sometime they go for the experience of feeling.  Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera both have their moments of darkness and doom-and-gloom, but the depth of emotions they wrangle out of their audience is their appeal and exactly why they’ve survived for so long in an ever-changing environment.

Sweeney Todd is to be a very welcome addition to London, as would My Land’s Shore. I hold high hopes for 2012 – it’s going to be a cracker of a year!

By Julie Robinson (missjulie25)

7th November 2011