Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Horror musical’s a cut above

FROM the spooky stage architecture to the very first chillingly discordant notes, it was clear this

FROM the spooky stage architecture to the very first chillingly discordant notes, it was clear this was going to be powerful stuff.

We were rapidly drawn in to this terrible tale of a betrayed man seeking revenge, with a melodic Greek chorus and tunes both light and dark.

Sweeney Todd (Paul Taylor) has returned from his banishment to Australia in search of those who destroyed his happy life with a wife and child.

He is accompanied by a young sailor, Anthony, who is soon to discover a beautiful girl called Johanna whose ward, Judge Turpin, was the one who sent Todd away.

Todd visits Mrs Lovett (Aggie Holland) in her meat pie shop on Fleet Street, to find the owner lamenting her wares as they are all lard and piecrust, while he wishes to resurrect his old skills with a razor and sets up a barbershop above the pie premises.

Following a shave-off with pseudo-Italian barber Adolfo Pirelli, who sets about trying to blackmail him, Todd’s path is set as he does away with him in the chair. It soon becomes clear to Sweeney Todd that Mrs Lovett has some business synergies in mind betwixt the two, which is spelled out loud and clear in song. She gains a new helper, Tobias Ragg, left bereft at the disappearance of his former master Pirelli.

Everything about this musical was spellbinding. The outstanding duo of Todd and Lovett, with total immersion in their roles, shone through and the great acting and singing was enhanced by fantastic outfits and even the hairdos — Todd resembling John Lydon and Lovett a beautified Robert Smith.

When Mrs Lovett saw an upturn in business, this was also reflected in her newly upmarket dress sense.

Special mention should go to the magnificent and multi-tasking stage setting, with its rickety stairs, gloomy top room and backdrop.

The cast seamlessly swirled the clever set-pieces around as required, changing the centre piece from ship to shop and then revealing the short cut from barbershop to bakehouse (gruesome product but low on food miles), while the moving stories were played out around this ghastly premise. The dramatic red lighting and glint of the barber’s razor highlighted the horror.

All the cast sang beautifully and with meaning, as layers of the stories unfolded. From despair and revenge, through to some romantic hope and the inevitable tragic ending, everything about this show was definitely a cut above.

Review: Natalie Aldred

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