Sweeney Todd, Adelphi Theatre

~ Maidenhead Advertiser - 23/03/12 ~

What a 'bloody' good show.

Like the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons - where children gleefully sing 'Here comes the chopper to chop off your head' - it is grisly, gothic but oh so fun.

Dipple-faced Michael Ball is unrecognisable as Sweeney Todd with a Hitler-like slick of dark hair and haunted eyes.

His stage presence is mesmerising, with an almost Russell Crowe like gruffness.

And he pulls off the role with so much charisma that despite his bloodlust you almost find yourself feeling sorry for him at the end.

His voice of course is magnificent, especially in Johanna and The Barber and his Wife.

Tempering his hulking frame and brooding brow is the small but mighty Imelda Staunton.

She almost steals the show from him with the perfectly timed gallows humour of Mrs Lovett, the pie shop owner who hits upon a tasty way of dispose of Sweeney's victims.

Where he is dark and imposing, she is cheeky and flits about the stage with a sunny energy.

But of course this hides the fact that she is probably the more twisted of the pair - the moment you see her decide to sacrifice her adopted helper Tobias is one of the most memorable of the whole show.

Tobias himself (James McConville) almost whips the spotlight from both of them with his heartbreaking rendition of Not While I'm Around.

Not impressing quite as much was Lucy May Barker, who is sweet but a little shrill as Sweeny's daughter Johanna and Luke Brady as her bland suitor Anthony.

Their love story added depth to the story but no real stand-out moments.

The apparent use of the GoCompare man, as Sweeney's faux Italian enemy and first victim, proved an unnecessary distraction.

The musical has also been transported to the 1930s instead of its traditional 19th century Dickensian setting which I'm not convinced worked.

These niggles aside Stephen Sondheim's music and lyrics are showcased brilliantly and with just the right balance of tragedy and humour to make it a real emotional rollercoaster.

There's only one body before the interval but the murder spree begins in earnest in Act II.

There's no over egging from Ball who cleanly slices their throats with a stony face, leaving them gasping their way down his trap door spurting blood and us chuckling in our seats.

This show will make you laugh, gasp, sigh and rise from your seat clapping widly- as we all did at the end.


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