Sweeney Todd review

Graham Powner wrote in the Theatreworld Internet Magazine:

The story of the Barber seeking revenge for the rape of his wife, the abduction of his daughter and his transportation to Australia by a ruthless Judge (aided and abetted by his unscrupulous Beadle) is well known. The characters are stark and clear - no understanding needed on the part of the audience. The other main character is not so easily understood. Mrs Lovett - whose idea it is to turn Todd’s victims' into meat pies - is laughable; but under the skilful direction of DANIEL CAREY'sdarker’ direction to the character, we are left in no doubt that Mrs Lovett is real!! The way the two of them come toward the audience with rolling pin and razor (respectively) raised `asking’ for clients is extremely dramatic and totally, scarily believable.

DIANE PHILLIPS as Mrs Lovett gives a wonderful performance and what she may lack in operatic' vocal ability she more than makes up for with her superb comic timing. CHRIS LLOYD and ANNA MARGOLIS as the young sailor and Todd's daughter are perfectly cast - their voices blending together and Miss Margolis gets my gold award for the fastest ever sungMarry Me Sunday’!!

LYNN HOUGHTON as the beggar worman (who is in fact Johanna’s mother / Todd’s wife) was sung as well as the original Broadway recording - and as Tobias (the simple' lad who is taken in by Mrs Lovett following thedemise’ of his former master!) MARK MILLIDGE sings `Not while I’m around’ sublimely.

The greek chorus who keep us abreast of the plot as they keep reprising `The Ballad of Sweeney Todd’ has difficulty sometimes on the small Ashcroft stage - this must be on of the largest casts the stage has had to cope with! [you must have missed Aïda, see below] - keep the tale moving at a swift pace. Under the masterful musical direction of JONATHAN BUTCHER and the 25+ piece orchestra - who were flawless - and with this especially difficult score that was amazing.

The sets (largely based on the original Broadway `revolving set’) were cleverly designed and executed (no pun intended!) though I have to say that the somewhat inadequate lighting in the Ashcroft let the piece down.

However I give SURREY OPERA a definite “thumbs up” for presenting one of my personal favourite Sondheim shows. It is to the credit of Surrey Opera that they have given us a production of a masterpiece which will remain in my mind for some time to come.

©Graham Powner