Sweeney Todd

Theatre, West End
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Sweeney Todd
Sweeney Todd

'It's enough to make you come all over gooseflesh,' shivers Imelda Staunton's canny creative cook, Mrs Lovett, as she contemplates the grisly aftermath of one of the demon barber's deadly deeds.

She's not wrong: Jonathan Kent's production of Stephen Sondheim's gore-soaked musical is dark and dazzling by turns, and utterly hair-raising. It's not just that slitting people's throats and baking them in pies is a stomach-turning, if lucrative business; in this staging, social injustice and inhumanity emerge forcefully as commonplace obscenities.

And, thanks to the brilliance of Sondheim's score and lyrics, and stunning performances from a cast led by Staunton and an almost unrecognisable Michael Ball as Sweeney, a macabre horror story becomes both diabolically funny and genuinely tragic.

Anthony Ward's designs present a multi-level industrial setting that seeps grimy deprivation, pierced by shards of yellowy light illuminating swirls of dirty fog. An ensemble of toiling 1930s workers begin to entertain each other with the tale of Sweeney Todd, its gruesome thrills a panacea for lives of arduous, depression-era monotony. As Sondheim's music soars, there's a vocal explosion, as if this Victorian penny dreadful had ignited decades of rage and suffering.

Ball's grim, vengeful anti-hero is mesmeric, his eyes aglitter beneath his curtain of lank hair. His very stillness is menacing; his rich voice wrings every nuance of fury, madness and desolation from the score. When Mrs Lovett suggests her get-rich-quick scheme, he flashes a toothy, lupine grin; it's a delicious moment of ghoulish comedy.

And Staunton is nothing short of astonishing. She's hilariously adept with Sondheim's comic rhymes, and an earthy, gritty-voiced delight as she attempts coquetry with Ball. But she also conveys a devastating loneliness and longing that has you handing her your heart even as she's flinging body parts into the oven.

This is a production crammed with detail: it is vivid, nightmarish and exhilarating. Bloody marvellous.


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Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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If the only version of Sweeney Todd is the film staring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, then this spectacularly lavish, gutsy and extravagant production will open you mind heighten your pleasure. The show has been updated from the late 1800s to the 1930s, and the set is beautiful in its recreation of 30s London. Michael Ball is barely recognisable as Todd, but he excels in giving Todd a harder, more closed persona than previous incarnations. But for me, the show really belongs to Imelda Staunton. Her Mrs Lovett is cheery and slightly neurotic holding, bringing with her needed humor, particularly when frustrated. Jason Manford is dastardly, absurd and wonderfull funny as Pirelli.

Shouldn't a musical be ... er....MUSICAL? If you can whistle a tune from this dirge - you're probably one of those critics who only like productions that are a pain in the ear-hole for ordinary mortals.

Fantastic cast and brilliantly produced, a must see if you are in to macabre style theatre. Very well acted, I couldn't even pick a favourite as everyone shone.

Amazing that something this dark, bloody, and potentially depressing could come off so well. The two leads are excellent, especially Mrs. Lovett--Imelda. I am sensitive to this dark sort of humor, morality tales, etc. but found this very very entertaining. I feel sorry for the cast and their bland, unappealing costumes. This is NOT Priscilla but equally as enlightening or entertaining.

An incredible production with thoroughly entertaining performances, yet it didn't leave me going 'wow' like Matilda, Les Mis or Legally Blonde. Something about it left me cold, though perhaps that's just the musical itself being quite different from the aforementioned.

I thought this was great and I don't even particularly like musicals. Incredibly dramatic, brilliant music and Imelda Staunton must surely be our next theatrical Dame.

A brilliant show done by a brilliant cast. Excellent production values and the strong chorus make this an exceptional production. I have never seen a better Mrs. Lovett -- Imelda is just plain terrific. There are still some tickets at TKTS daily, but with a limited run this superb offering will sell out quickly, I think. A must-see show!

It was grisly and hilarious. The songs are just exceptional and I'm still humming them.

Easily the best staging and performance of Sweeney Todd I've seen in a long time (and I've seen many versions). The cast make it their own. Outstanding.