Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd tells the tale of a deranged barber on his quest for revenge; together with an equally disturbed widow and a socially awkward sailor, they embark on a journey full of love, deaths, and crude puns. A Milk and Two Sugars Production puts on a promising reprisal of the musical with an all-student cast, performing from Monday to Saturday of 5th week at Keble’s O’Reilly Theatre.
The cast did a phenomenal job at portraying the awkward, psychotic freaks of the show. Rob Cowburn (playing Adolpho Pirelli) and Luke Howarth (playing Beadle Bamford) left the audience in hysterics with their witty, stereotypical portrayals. Hannah Bristow pulled off the role of little boy Tobias Ragg brilliantly and was effective in portraying the psychological change undergone by Tobias as the plot progressed. Helena Wilson’s Mrs. Lovett is a rugged woman who is well passed her best days; yet she wins over the audience with her constant optimism and represents a breath of fresh air amidst insanity, depression and paranoia.
The music, on the other hand, was less spectacular. Whilst the chorus was mostly strong, other cast members at times missed hitting their notes. The voices of two members of the cast were too low for their respective roles, which resulted in their failure to fully reach the high notes and to do their parts justice. Actors occasionally found it difficult to follow the rhythm of the music and ended up rushing their lines. Having said this, Sweeney Todd (Andy Laithwaithe) remained strong throughout the entire show, and was masterful at maintain the quality of tone even whilst whispering or screaming.
The confined amphitheatre of the O’Reilly drew the audience closer to the action: characters enter and retreat from both from backstage and the side entrances, thus incorporating seating rows themselves into the stage. The use of a revolving stage made the transition between scenes and floor levels smooth and fluid, with the appearance of characters as the stage slowly turns in itself making the performance all the more mysterious.
All in all, the production is masterful, dark, and yet hilarious. What is lacking in the music is made up by the excellent acting from all members of the cast. It is no doubt a must-see as a relief from the crisis of 5th week blues.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street runs at the Keble O’Reilly Theatre from Wednesday-Saturday @ 7:30 pm and Friday-Saturday @ 2.30 pm – tickets available at http://wegottickets.com/milkandtwosugars
PHOTO/ Romain Reglade