ENO's Sweeney Todd
Reviewed on Tuesday 31st March 2015
There has been no shortage of Sweeney Todd productions in London over recent months. However, I haven't seen Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s show since the 2012 West End revival with Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton so went with a relatively fresh mind and high expectations.
Lonny Price's concert staging of the iconic musical thriller - about a barber who murders his customers and, with his landlady, bakes their bodies into meat pies - comes to London following a handful of performances at the Lincoln Center in New York last year. Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson return as Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett, alongside a remarkably strong supporting cast.
"...a theatrical event we will still be talking about in years to come."
The performance of the night comes from Matthew Seadon-Young as Anthony Hope. Fresh from his knock out turn in Urinetown, here Seadon-Young showcases a different side to his talents. His rendition of 'Johanna' is beautifully smooth and tender whilst his portrayal is three dimensional and engaging throughout. He is certainly one to watch.
It is quite something to see top West End stars Rosalie Craig and John Owen-Jones take on smaller roles. However, both make their presence felt as the Beggar Woman and Pirelli. Neither put a foot wrong and impress with strong and feisty vocals, providing an absolute masterclass.
Elsewhere Katie Hall (Johanna), Philip Quast (Judge Turpin), Jack North (Tobias Ragg) and Alex Gaumond (Beadle Bamford) all give stellar performances.
Whilst Terfel has a tremendous voice, I found his portrayal of one of theatre's most famous roles a little too 'safe'. Terfel doesn't bring an exciting edge to the character and I struggled to find his performance engaging. He can sing the score in his sleep, but that's not enough.
It is a joy to see Thompson return to the London stage. She makes the most of every moment, performing with a twinkle in her eye and spring in her step.
The large ensemble of top West End talent are used well throughout the piece, popping up all over the theatre. The concert staging isn't too limiting, the design is neat and the energy is powerful. Under the direction of David Charles Abell, the ENO orchestra sound divine and it's great to see the musicians sharing the stage with the cast.
It's rare to see such an exciting cast taking on such an epic show. Sweeney Todd is uniquely funny yet dark, and even I had forgotten just how terrific the score is. The ENO's Sweeney Todd is a theatrical event we will still be talking about in years to come.