Monday, 17 December 2012

'Sweeney Todd', Adelphi Theatre, London, 29/8/12

This one is very late but I am, at last, getting it down (indeed there are a few other reviews I have yet to put down).
This production was, to put it simply, perfect. From the cast, through to the lighting and sound design, the set and the orchestra, every thing coalesced to create one of the most thrilling, engaging and sublime pieces of theatre I have ever experienced.

This was no mere rehashing or retreading of past productions but a fresh take that approached the work with a more realistic edge than the original melodramatic approach: Even before the first note of the Overture the cast milled about onstage going about the daily drudgery of their lives in the dirty east end of London, efficiently setting up the environment before the show had started proper - these were hard times and people were suffering.

It is difficult to single out any one cast member but it is quite appropriate to say that Imelda Staunton as 'Mrs. Lovett' and Michael Ball as the title character were revelations. Staunton, especially, clearly played the role in a way not seen before - here was a person truly as vile and warped as Todd himself.
Lucy May Barker's voice was glorious as 'Lucy' and hers was no dumb blonde of a role. Likewise James McConville's 'Toby' was no mere idiot, rather he was played as a naive boy with learning difficulties. I found his 'Not While I'm Around' truly heartbreaking.

The set was ingenious, industrious and, at times played subtle homage to the original Hal Prince staging. The lighting perfectly complimented this with atmospheric use of light and shade.
The sound design was divine with voices layered in a way I've never heard before - with some voices more 'present' than others at times, the sense was one of aural depth, the likes of which complimented Sondheim's perfect score tremendously.

I only wish the run had been extended and that the production had been filmed. It truly was perfect in every way and I lament the fact that the cast recording was only a highlights album (and one full of strange choices - 'Pirelli's' numbers are excluded as is 'Green Finch and Linnet Bird').
I shall treasure the memory, however.

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