Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd: he served a dark and vengeful God!” After a visit to the New Theatre’s website advertising their current production of Stephen Sondheim’s SWEENEY TODD, with its graphic image of a throat being cut and a viewing of the teaser video with its huge blood splash finale, one might be forgiven for thinking a dark evening is in store. In lesser hands perhaps the show could float in gore like the 2007 movie. This production, however, focuses on an exploration of what it takes to make a monster. It seems that answer is … love!
Benjamin Barker arrives back on the docks of Victorian London. He is accompanied by his shipboard companion, Anthony Hope. Anthony knows this man as Sweeney Todd. He rescued Sweeney from a mysterious shipwreck and honours his vow not to ask questions even after a mysterious beggar woman confronts them both. Sweeney’s past is revealed as he revisits his old haunts and meets up with Mrs Lovett who recognises him at once as the man she adored from afar. She has even saved his silver razors and offers him her upstairs room as a barber shop. Continue reading Sweeney Todd @ The New→
British actor and playwright George Dibdin-Pitt (1799-18550) charts the story of Benjamin Barker, aka Sweeney Todd, who returns to London after 15 years’ transportation on trumped-up charges. When he finds out that his wife poisoned herself after being raped by the judge who transported him, he vows revenge on the judge and, later, the whole world. He teams up with a local piemaker, Mrs. Lovett, opens up a barber shop above her pie shop, and together they reap a terrible and horrible carnage.
Dibdin-Pitt’s story was taken up by writer Hugh Wheeler who adapted it for the stage, Stephen Sondheim added the music and lyrics and the musical SWEENEY TODD- THE DEMON BUTCHER OF FLEET STREET was born. The premiere production opened on Broadway in March 1979 starring Angela Lansbury and took out a whole swag of Tony awards. The play has gone on to become one of the big musicals, performed by many different theatre companies across the globe.
The Blue Mountains Musical Society’s current revival, helmed by Jessica Lovelace, is a bold, colourful, in your face interpretation. First thing that stands out is the large bare stage, there is no set to speak of. Long benches either side sees the chorus, the ensemble watch and comment as the main action takes place.
With the appearance of ipads and the like early on in the show, we know that Dibdin-Pitt’s story has time traveled and is set in the present day. Fair call, the theme of the disastrous results of bloody revenge are as relevant, as ever, today.
Dance features prominently. Whether it be in the decadent cavorting of the ensemble or the delicate modern dance/ballet of the doomed lovers.
David Hidden as Sweeney and Clare McCallum as Mrs Lovett impress in the leading roles with strong performances. There’s good chemistry between Simon Halligan as Anthony and Uma Dobia as Johanna. Anthony Zarb convinced as a nasty piece of work as Judge Turpin. Rebekkah Roma and Brett Hartnett did some lovely work as the lead dancers.
Recommended, the Blue Mountains Musical Society’s revival of SWEENEY TODD- THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET opened at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, 597 High Street, Penrith (five minutes from Penrith railway station) on Friday May 24 and runs until Saturday June 1, 2013. The remaining performances are this coming Wednesday and Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 2pm and 8pm.
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