I might be lucky enough to attend the theatre a few times a year. That’s not too bad considering I’m poor and forgetful. It is sad that it’s such a rare occurrence when I get to go to the theatre, but when I do it’s always a memorable experience.
On this occasion I had the privilege of watching Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (A Musical Thriller) performed by the Welsh National Opera. I have never seen a musical performed by opera Singers before. This intrigued me, mainly because I have seen this show before performed by a Musical Theatre company as one would expect.
The story follows Benjamin Barker, a barber who's wronged by a powerful judge who lusts for Barker's wife. Barker is sent away for life for a crime he did not commit, 15 years later he makes his way back to London where his overwhelming thirst for vengeance leads him to commit a string of murders with the aid of his associate Mrs Lovett, who promptly disposes of the corpses by baking them into pies to sell in her shop.
This was performed by an ensemble of approximately 40 opera singers who project their characters and Sondheim’s clever lyrics more convincingly than their musical theatre colleagues. Of course the singing especially the harmonies were more than impressive, in particular the sopranos who hit some extraordinary notes.
Director James Brining ensures the pace never lets up, from the imaginative opening scenes and the set (which the ensemble would change in plain view, but in a very creative manner) is very effective. The set is the day-room of a psychiatric ward with steel containers that open to show Todd’s bare barber’s shop, Johanna’s bedroom and Judge Turpin’s study, complete with Mrs Lovett’s meat-pie stall centre stage.
All the cast are excellent but a special mention for Janis Kelly as Mrs Lovett with her fine comic timing turning the musical thriller into more of a dark comedy, whether that was intended or not I’m not sure, but it works, that I am sure of. I have to mention the duet of the young lovers Anthony and Johanna, as Jamie Muscato and Soraya Mafi performed my favourite song from the musical ‘Ah Miss’ perfectly, it was sung beautifully.
To summarize if you are partial to a show tune, a bit of blood and gore, some dark comedy and mesmerizing talent Sweeney Todd is the show for you! xxx