Who ate all the pies? Well, it wasn't Michael Ball's Sweeney Todd

~ Daily Mail, Baz Bamigboye - 04/11/2011 ~

Michael Ball has led the revolt against the revolting pies in the otherwise appetising new production of Sweeney Todd.

The musical, about a murderous barber who has his victims recycled into pie filling, stars Ball and Imelda Staunton. It has its final performance at the Chichester Festival Theatre tomorrow, and will move to London in March

The production is a huge hit, featuring two of the best performances in a musical this year, but the behind-the-scenes cooking skills have left much to be desired.

Ball told me the pies are ‘horrible and greasy’. ‘I don’t touch them,’ he added.

In the show, they are made by Imelda’s character Mrs Lovett, and billed as the ‘best pies in London’. The cast sing a number titled God, That’s Good!, during which various customers have to consume three pies. ‘They actually eat them!’ Ball cried.

After complaints, the original filling  was replaced with sweetcorn and spicy tomato (in order to provide a realistically grisly look). Although still not to Ball’s taste, the pies are now slightly better than they used to be.

Audiences, blissfully unaware of the pie palaver, have been eating the entire show up and it has played to full houses.

It will transfer to the Adelphi Theatre from March 10, where it will follow the National Theatre’s blockbuster, laugh-a-minute hit One Man, Two Guvnors.

Director Jonathan Kent has found a perfect combination in Michael and Imelda.

Ball credits his leading lady with helping him raise his game. ‘She’s the consummate actress and I wanted to be in her league,’ he told me. 

‘We’ve developed this telepathic connection, working together.’

The actor lost the two stone he had gained to play Edna in Hairspray and got himself in shape to play the schizophrenic Sweeney.

Some of his fans were a bit freaked out, he admitted, by his new, lean look. ‘They’ve been shocked and surprised, but the response has been good because I wanted to shake up what I do.’

Ball had to beg to be auditioned for Hairspray; and he pursued Stephen Sondheim until he was given permission to play Sweeney. 

In fact, the composer saw the show last Friday and delayed his return to the U.S. to see it a second time. I understand he considers the Chichester Sweeney to be a landmark production and would like it, and its two stars, to go to New York.

Tomorrow night’s end-of-run party at Chichester certainly won’t have pie on the menu — and an entirely new recipe is being cooked up for the Adelphi.

Meanwhile, the two stars will meet up again to co-host the Olivier Awards at Covent Garden next year.

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