Stephen Sondheim’s dark musical Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has transferred to the Adelphi Theatre after a sell-out season at the Chichester Festival Theatre. The new production is certainly not for the faint-hearted, with bloody scenes interspersed throughout the musical along with the dark and twisted humour expressed by Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett.
Set in the nineteenth century in the poverty-stricken streets of London, the production follows a skilled barber who after years of false imprisonment in Australia changes his name to Sweeney Todd and begins a quest for justice. Having served his time in prison he arrives back in London to find that his family has been ruined by the judge who sentenced him, and he plots his revenge.
With their lack of empathy and remorse, Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett both have psychopathic tendencies. However, with her bubbly personality Mrs Lovett, portrayed exquisitely by Imelda Staunton, almost manages to convince you that you want her to be successful in her ‘reputable business’. Michael Ball, as Sweeney Todd, is also superb. He expresses Todd’s tortured personality extremely well, emphasising the dangerous and threatening aspect of the character very well.
As the plot unfolds it also becomes apparent that the scheming pair of Todd and Lovett each have their own agenda.
While the leading cast of Michael Ball as Sweeney Todd and Imelda Staunton as Mrs Lovett captivate the audience, it is fair to say that the supporting cast are also excellent. John Bowe as Judge Turpin and Peter Polycarpou as Beadle Bamford in particular are both excellent.
The remaining leading cast all performed admirably and helped to maintain the high quality of the performance; Robert Burt as Pirelli, Simeon Truby as Jonas Fogg, Gillian Kirkpatrick as Beggar Woman, Lucy May Barker as Johanna, Luke Brady as Anthony and James McConville as Tobias.
Sondheim’s music and the dark bleak stage-set successfully capture the Dickensian London, with the nerve-jangling bursts of sound from the screeching grinder and dark scenes likely to keep you on edge throughout the musical.
On a personal note, Sweeney Todd didn’t capture me like it seems to have done with most others that go along to see it. Maybe it is because I have got used to seeing musicals that are more uplifting in their style; and possibly due to the dark ‘Sondheim’ music, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the end product. However, everything about the musical is extremely accomplished and there is no doubt that Ball and Staunton work exceptionally well together. I am sure the musical will be a big hit in the West End.
Review by Neil Cheesman
Important Information: Suitable for ages 12+
Booking Until: Saturday, 22nd September 2012
Matinees: Wednesday and Saturday 2.30pm
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Running Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Content updated 1st May 2014