(Please note, this is a review of the London Production of Soundheim's 'Sweeney Todd'. This production is to be re-created on Broadway in the fall of 2005.)
Click here for more details of the Broadway production.
Sweeney Todd was an eighteenth century barber who slashed the throats of his customers before stripping the flesh from their bodies. The human flesh was then used as pie filling by his accomplish Mrs Lovett, and sold to an unsuspecting public. It is believed that 160 victims may have ended up as meat pies, devoured by the ravenous patrons of Mrs Lovettï¿½s shop.
Stephen Sondheimï¿½s Sweeney Todd is not a motiveless mad man who butchers his victims merely for sadistic pleasure and financial gain. Instead his Sweeney Todd serves ï¿½a dark and a hungry Godï¿½ called revenge. Todd is seeking retribution on the judge who had him transported on false charges in order to seduce his wife.
John Doyleï¿½s small-scale production has the cast of nine remain on stage throughout. Their continuous presence, and the fact that the stage is congested with props, helps to create a sense of suffocation and inner turmoil, which suits this intense psychological musical thriller.
The cast not only bring their characters to life but also the music, as they sing and play a variety of musical instruments. Mrs Lovett no sooner finishes cleaning her saw and axe, and she is blowing her trumpet! Other instruments played by the cast include piano, cello, flute and accordion.
Karen Mann is wonderful as the amoral Mrs Lovett, a tawdry, mutton dressed as lamb, floozy. Her mocking plaintive tones as she sings of ï¿½Her worst pies in Londonï¿½, turns into a jig of rapture as she looks forward to growing rich upon the free meat provided by Sweeney Todd, ï¿½Seems a downright shame. Seems an awful waste. Such a nice plump frameï¿½ she intones with barely concealed delight. Sam Kenyon (Tobias) leads the ensemble in ï¿½The Ballad Of Sweeney Toddï¿½ and exuberates energy as he moves up and down the aisles engaging with the audience.
Paul Hegarty is a disappointing Sweeney Todd. When we first meet him he is suitably melancholic and full of spite as he seeks revenge, but his persona never changes as his blood lust increases. ï¿½To seek revenge may lead to hellï¿½, the ensemble sing of Sweeny Todd, whichever hell that is, it is not the hell of a criminally insane mind.
With the exception of Sam Kenyon as ï¿½Tobiasï¿½ and David Ricardo-Pearce as ï¿½Anthonyï¿½ , none of the cast have exceptional voices, however the production more than makes up for this downfall with the sheer versatility of the ensemble and the dark suspense they create on stage.
This review of the London production is provided curtesy of our sister site www.londontheatre.co.uk