BWW Review: SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET at Her Majesty's Theatre
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne
Friday 21st June 2019
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's ground-breaking musical masterpiece, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, returned to the Australian stage. This new concert production played for six performances in Sydney followed by six in Melbourne.
Director Theresa Borg forms the story around a séance that summons the characters from beyond the grave to tell the tale of Sweeney Todd, an urban legend of the Victorian penny dreadful series about a man's return from exile to enact his revenge on those who wronged him.
Having moved into Melbourne's Her Majesty's Theatre, any wrinkles reported during the initial Sydney run seem to have been ironed out. This was the eighth performance and the cast appeared more settled in their roles.
The audience cheered and welcomed the formidable Anthony Warlow as he made his entrance in the title role, singing the part with such power and such ease. Gina Riley impressed as pie-shop owner Mrs. Lovett showcasing her comedic timing. Both performers had great chemistry and were exceptional as they sang their way through one of Sondheim's richest and most complicated scores.
Debra Byrne was a scene stealer in her small but excellent portrayal of the Beggar Woman. Owen McCredie was a stand-out in his professional debut role as the likeable young sailor with a sweet tenor voice who falls for the tortured Johanna, sung to perfection by Genevieve Kingsford, perhaps a bit too sweet and perfect given the ordeal her character endures.
The ensemble, a mix of regular musical-theatre and operatic performers, were impressive and delivered to the narrative demands.
Kim Bishop's costumes were impressive and breathed life back into a production that is rarely performed in Australia. The orchestra, led by musical director Vanessa Scammell, was incorporated into the set of a dilapidated gothic house. However, the stage height had been raised to a level that obstructed the view for the front section of the stalls from being able to see some of the action that took place towards the back of the stage.
Regardless, in a time of the jukebox musical, there was an electricity in the air on Friday night and the ingredients of betrayal, vengeance and murder certainly delivered a deliciously tasty treat.