Sweeney Todd The Inside TrackNow Closed
What's it all about?
*There will be no performances between 30 July and 12 August 2012.
Audiences have been eating up this revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical about the wronged barber who wreaks his horrible revenge on London.
But whether you’re a current inhabitant of the capital or just visiting, have no fear – this meaty production is as dazzling for its razor-sharp wit as it is for its guts and gore.
What's the story?
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street probably needs no introduction. But just in case his cut-throat approach to the coiffeur business has passed you by, here are the gory details.
Benjamin Barker (aka Sweeney) returns to London from exile with a plan to avenge his wife’s death. Teaming up with wily pie shop owner Mrs Lovett, he starts dispatching customers who won’t be missed down from his blood-red barber’s chair to her oven below.
But Mrs L has a secret and the days of their people-filled pastries are numbered.
Who's in it?
You may have seen Tim Burton’s darkly comic Sweeney Todd film and thought Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter couldn’t be outdone – but you’d be wrong.
Michael Ball, better known for lighter roles in shows such as Hairspray and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, is utterly transformed as the malevolent Sweeney, while Imelda Staunton (winner of an Olivier Award for another Sondheim show, Into The Woods) plays his partner in crime with relish.
Both give their all to Sondheim’s gloriously gutsy (if sometimes gut-churning) songs, from ‘The Ballad of Sweeney Todd’ to ‘The Worst Pies in London’ and ‘A Little Priest’ – and if you listen carefully you’ll hear some of the music was inspired by Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Who is Sweeney Todd suitable for?
If bright and breezy musicals don’t do it for you, this macabre morsel might be a more appetising prospect. Like The Woman in Black it is genuinely scary, so it’s probably not one for the very young – although teens will love the black humour and grisly shocks.
That said, this show isn’t about cheap scares. It has a tragic hero to rival any of Shakespeare’s, and with Jonathan Kent (Don Giovanni, The Country Wife) in the director’s chair, opera buffs as well as musicals fans will find it as moreish as one of Mrs L’s popular (and populated) pies.
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Did You Know?
The story of Sweeney Todd first appeared in a “penny dreadful” series of stories called The String of Pearls, published in 1846. It is still not known if he was based on a real character, making the tale one of the earliest known urban legends.
And it’s a story that’s fascinated Michael Ball for years – so much so that he badgered Stephen Sondheim, and even lost two stone in weight, until he got permission to play Sweeney. But it was all worth it when the composer came to the Chichester run and enjoyed it so much that he saw it twice. Rumour has it Broadway beckons.
When this production of Sweeney first opened, Ball says the pies eaten on stage were truly revolting. Now the recipe has been changed to a suitably gruesome-looking sweetcorn and spicy tomato concoction. Ball is still glad he doesn’t have to eat them, but some of the other cast members aren’t so lucky. Ironically enough, they have to gobble them up during a song called ‘God, That’s Good!’
Stephen Sondheim came to see the Chichester production of this show, which he enjoyed so much that he postponed his flight to the United States to go back a second time.
People reportedly walked out of the Chichester production because they thought an understudy had come to play Sweeney Todd. In reality, Michael Ball was in front of their very eyes and they didn't recognise him!
There will be no performances between 30 July and 12 August 2012.
1979 Tony Awards
Best Book of a Musical
Best Original Score
1980 Laurence Olivier Awards
Best New Musical