Sweeney Todd’ is a musical thriller about a 19th century London barber who goes on a murderous rampage. In the past, the evil Judge Turpin framed Todd (known then as Benjamin Barker) and raped his young wife. Todd was unjustly incarcerated in a penal colony for 15 years. However, when the show begins, Todd has managed to return to London and has come seeking revenge. He rents a room over the shop of Mrs. Lovett, the proprietress of a struggling pie shop. Todd’s thirst for blood soon expands to include not only the judge but also his unfortunate customers. Meanwhile, Mrs. Lovett happily puts the bodies in the meat grinder and uses the human meat in her meat pies – which become extremely popular with the citizens of London.
Essex County Standard review
PERFORMANCES A CUT ABOVE
Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Mercury Theatre, Colchester. Society’s ambitious attempt at Sweeney Todd pays off
BY WILL HOOPER
SWEENEY Todd is a theatrical masterpiece written by a theatrical master.
It is the often told tale of cut-throat razors and hot pies, with dubious fillings. Stephen Sondheim’s musical version, first staged in 1979, pushes the drama up several notches, and hopefully will continue to be performed as long as theatres exist.
This was an ambitious choice for Colchester Operatic Society, branching into the Sondheim repertoire for the first time.
But musical director Neil Somerville was equal to his task, his orchestra creating a strong accompaniment that drove the show forward at a rate of knots. Director Dani Fincham used traditional set and costumes, as well as a gauze curtain, and varied lighting with sinister shadows, to help create a fitting atmosphere.
As the barber bent on revenge, Mark Fincham acted and sang with conviction, and coped with the mechanics of the accursed barber’s chair with composure.
Melanie Greaney, as his youthful, pie-making partner in crime, created a fun, colourful character, and visibly grew in confidence as the evening progressed.
While Shane King and Hannah Shayle-Kennedy gave strong, honest and moving performances as Anthony and Johanna.
Last, but by no means least, Caroline Fritz displayed her range as the beggar woman, and Graham Bowden put in an amusing cameo as Pirelli.
East Anglian Daily Times
Sweeney Todd tells us in song at once that when he polishes ‘em off they go to their maker impeccably shaved – and impeccable is the word for this show. It grabs you by the throat right at the start, if you’ll pardon the pun, and never lets you go.
Colchester Operatic have taken hold of this difficult semi-operatic piece with the ease of a professional company and produced as accomplished an amateur musical as I’ve seen in a long time.
It’s a score that encompasses delightful melodies and melodrama, tongue-twisting, quick-fire lyrics and slices of wonderful humour – and all the principals and the large chorus hit every note perfectly on cue right from the start.
The production is a triumph for musical director Neil Somerville who seizes our imaginations with clever regularity. He opens with deep, discordant organ chords which fill us with foreboding as we view the brilliantly seedy 19th Century London set and his powerful orchestra sweeps us along into the action.
And the cast is very well chosen, with a particularly good Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett. When Mark Fincham’s white-faced, crazed-eyed Sweeney sings and caresses his ‘friends’, his long-lost cut-throat razors, we know he means business and each victim is dispatched in a halo of blood-red light into the oven where Nellie Lovett turns them into the pies that London can’t get enough of.
Melanie Greaney’s Nellie is a priceless concoction of cunning wickedness and good humour. Her song, A Little Priest, in which she describes the different fillings in her hot-sellers – including real shepherd in the shepherd’s pie – is a delicious bit of delivery and very funny.
As the story of Todd’s revenge on the evil Judge Turpin, who stole the barber’s lovely wife and child and sent him to Botany Bay on a trumped-up charge, unfolds, there’s some very nice singing from Shane King as Anthony (Kiss Me), David King as Judge Turpin (Pretty Women), Phil Young as Tobias (Not While I’m Around), Ben Adams as Beadle Bamford (Sweet Polly Plunket), Hannah Shayle-Kennedy as Joanna and Caroline Fritz as the beggar woman.