Michael Ball is looking sharp as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

~ Daily Mail - 30/09/2011 ~ Baz Bamigboye

My first thoughts when Sweeney Todd started at the Chichester Festival Theatre on Wednesday were: "Drat, why isn't Michael Ball on tonight? And who the hell is this bloke taking his place?"

Even though I have covered Ball's entire career, since he played in the original Les Miserables and Phantom Of The Opera, I didn't recognise the slick-haired, bearded bloke with the cold eyes who walked on to the stage.

This Sweeney Todd, about the demon barber of Fleet Street and his friendship with Nellie Lovett (a superb Imelda Staunton), is still in previews.

But it's clear this is a world-class production, featuring two world-class performances. Ball and Staunton find the darkness in their roles, and a little humour.

Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the musical, is suffering from a bad back and so can't see Sweeney for a week and a half.

His view, and that of the critics, will determine whether it transfers to the West End in the spring.

In my view, it would be a crime if it doesn't. My only quibble is that the sight lines are a pain. I was sitting in J54 - a good stalls seat - but I had to lean into the aisle to see what was going on at times.

Oh well, that probably means I'll get my throat cut by those ruthless folk at Chichester!

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