by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler
Adelphi Theatre 409-412 Strand WC 2R 0NS To 22 September 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 412 4651 (booking fee).
Minicom 0870 145 1178.
Review: William Russell 21 March.
Glorious, gory and cut-throat sharp.
Arguably the tale of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street is Sondheim’s finest work, and this production, which received rave reviews when it opened last year at Chichester (see Timothy Ramsden’s review in the reviewsgate archive), has survived the transfer remarkably well – which not all previous transfers have done.
It is not the best production ever – that honour rests with Opera North – but it has in Michael Ball a fine, chilling Sweeney intent on revenging those who destroyed his family and his life, and in Imelda Staunton possibly the best-ever Mrs Lovett, the evil genius of the piece. Ball, his pretty boy, plump curly-haired good looks concealed by a hideous wig and a rather nasty real beard, face pallid and drawn, proves himself a true leading man.
As the lady who dreams up the plan to fill her pies with the flesh of his victims Staunton, who started off decades ago at the Mermaid in musicals, returns to the genre in style. She is very funny, and yet the embodiment of pure evil who ultimately chills the blood.
There is a handsome set by Anthony Ward, but why Jonathan Kent changed the period from around 1850 to some time in the 1930s is a mystery as it makes nonsense of much of the plot. Beadles and Bedlam just did not exist then. The juvenile leads are pallid, the ensemble could improve its diction – words matter in Sondheim shows – but these are quibbles. At the centre are two star performances almost worth every penny of the ticket price.
Sweeney Todd: Michael Ball.
Mrs Lovett: Imelda Staunton.
Judge Turpin: John Bowe.
Beadle Bamford: Peter Polycarpou.
Pirelli: Robert Burt.
Beggar Woman: Gillian Kirkpatrick.
Johanna: Lucy May Barker.
Anthony: Luke Brady.
Tobias: James McConville.
Jonas Fogg: Simeon Truby.
Director: Jonathan Kent.
Designer/Costume: Anthony Ward.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound: Paul Groothuis.
Musical Director: Nicholas Skilbeck.