Last Updated on 16th February 2019
Mercury Theatre, Colchester
27 October 2016
Once considered a “difficult masterpiece”, Sweeney Todd, (and Into The Woods), now seem to be the go to Sondheim musicals for both amateur and professional companies. I am into double figures in terms of productions of this show that I have seen, and the question for me was, “Do I need to see another Sweeney Todd?” After seeing this wonderful production, the answer is a resounding YES!
The tale is now well known, and the excellent ensemble brings it to life with the right amount of humour and horror. Hugh Maynard is the first black actor to play the role of Sweeney in professional theatre in the UK, and an inspired piece of casting it is. His ethnicity, for me, added another layer of Sweeney as the Outsider, treated with suspicion by society, perceived as a threatening Other. But he was cast because he is a great Sweeney with a magnificent voice. Occasionally his portrayal of Todd’s anger affects his diction, and I sometimes felt the melancholy of Sweeney could have been fore grounded, but he is tremendously vulnerable at the show’s conclusion.
Rightly or wrongly, ever since I saw Julia MacKenzie in the role at the National years ago, I feel the success of this show depends on the casting of Mrs. Lovett, and here the Mercury strike gold! Sophie-Louise Dann is magnificent in the role, her glee singing the lyrics of A Little Priest, her attempts at seducing Todd, her developing cannibalistic empire, and her loneliness are conveyed brilliantly in a performance that is worth the ticket price alone. She revels in the role, and the audience are with her every step along the gory alleyways.
From an excellent cast, Ryan Heenan is a wonderfully innocent and vulnerable Toby; David Durham is a commanding, (and dare I say it- sexy), Judge Turpin, Kara Lane the best Beggar Woman I have seen in the role, Julian Hoult a greasy Beadle Bamford, and Jack Wilcox and Christina Bennington sing beautifully as love interests Anthony and Johanna. The second half is, quite simply, flawless, as it builds to a genuinely spine tingling and moving climax.
Another star of the show is Sara Perk’s incredible costume and set design, the revolve working like a Victorian picture book, revealing something new almost every time it turns. Since his arrival at the Mercury Theatre, director Daniel Buckroyd has proven to have a particular affinity with musicals, and here his alchemy works again to produce, along with The Hired Man and End of the Rainbow, one of his best productions. Residents of Colchester are lucky to have on their doorsteps a production that punches above its regional theatre weight, and lovers of the musical would do well to travel and see it. I urge you all to attend the tale of this Sweeney Todd!
Until 11 November 2016