Theatre Review: Sweeney Todd
Published: April 2012
Sweeney Todd opened at London’s Adelphi Theatre at the end of March to rave reviews. Being a massive musical fan I popped along to see what all the fuss was about. To be honest I’m more of a fan of other American musicals from the likes of Rogers and Hammerstein and Irving Berlin and not that familiar with the works of Stephen Sondheim. My colleague Gareth Davis introduced me to A Little Night Music when it appeared at The Garrick in 2009 and I was instantly converted. Gareth, when he’s not entertaining the viewers on Cruise Today and Travel Today or with his knowledge of American history on the American Civil War Trail, entertains us all in the office with his near perfect renditions of every conceivable musical ditty. So I was quite familiar with many of the songs and of course have seen the recent film version of Sweeney Todd with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter.
You therefore go with a slight preconception that you know the story and know what to expect. Be prepared to be surprised, very surprised. First up is Michael Ball as Sweeney Todd himself, much has been written about how unrecognisable Michael is (I didn’t recognise him in Hairspray either) and he really is terrifyingly good. Equally on form is Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Lovett who gives it her all in every scene and every line. I wanted to bring a song book with me to remember each witty repose, they’re spoken and sung so quickly that no sooner are you chortling at one line (or thinking did she really say that) then another equally clever and amusing line is delivered. Shepherd being my surname, people often assume that “Shepherd’s pie” is my signature dish but thankfully not as Sondheim suggests, “peppered with actual Shepherd on top”. The acting, lyrics and music were all faultless but what about the gore? Squeamish friends were interested to hear how this would be handled on stage but they’d have no problem with the actual throat slitting (mild but effective) and the ingenious barber’s chair.
Seeing a show is so much part of a weekend or mini break in London. With hordes of tourists already currently in town for the Easter holidays and more expected for the Jubilee and of course the Olympics I can see Sweeney Todd being top of the wish lists to see. There’s still plenty for families to see in London with Wizard of Oz, Shrek, Lion King and Matilda but little for those with teenagers or couples where one half adamantly hates musicals. Sweeney Todd would therefore be a perfect choice for these groups. Theatre tickets in London don’t come cheap but our American intern paid £25 on the day to sit in the gods and had just as good a time as I had in best dress circle seats. Much of the action takes place high up in the room above the pie shop, so from the upper circle it’s actually not so far away, although she did miss seeing the ensemble cast who sing from high up on the set.
The show is able to be both funny and gritty at the same and I couldn’t recommend it more. If you missed out on tickets to the Olympics or Diamond Jubilee Concert, I’d console yourself with a trip instead to see Sweeney Todd. A bloody triumph.
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Theatre Review: Sweeney Todd
Petra joined Travel Channel for its launch back in 1994. She looks after our research and works on all original productions. Petra’s one of the most recognisable faces in the travel industry and when she’s not on the canapé circuit promoting the channel, she spends every free moment travelling. She’s visited over 70 countries and prefers back packing to 5 * luxury, unless of course it’s in the name of research!