Theatre Review: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd! State Opera is back with a vengeance courtesy of Mr Todd.


Presented by State Opera South Australia
Reviewed 8 May 2021

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd! State Opera is back with a vengeance courtesy of Mr Todd. You must attend, you will regret it if you don’t

Set in the dark streets of Victorian London, beautifully imagined by director Stuart Maunder and Roger Kirk, aided and abetted by lighting designer Philip Lethlean and sound designer Jim Atkins with realistic costumes by Roger Kirk. Anthony Hunt conducts the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in Stephen Sondheim’s well-loved score, of the well-known tale of revenge and vengeance told with flair and humour. The original story went from ‘penny dreadful’ to melodrama and on to an early 70’s play which became Sondheim’s inspiration. His genius touch has made it so much more.

With a burst of organ music and an un-nerving screeching sound the opening puts audiences on the edge of their seats and prepares them for the dark tale to come. Maunder has assembled an outstanding cast who take us to this disturbing world. The chorus is made up of voices that are individually great and together create magic, there are some particularly great harmonies. The leads are exceptional. Ben Mingay as Sweeney has all the stage presence required to strike terror into the streets, his part in No Place Like London and My Friends sets his scene. His partner in crime Mrs Lovett., Antoinette Halloran, is a perfect foil, establishing her point of view in The Worst Pies in London. Together they are a delight. Their rendition of A Little Priest is a highlight, beautifully comedic.

Adam Goodburn also wins in the comedy stakes with his portrayal of Signor Pirelli, giving us the fool with the nasty underside. As Judge Turpin, Douglas McNicol is great as a corrupt and immoral justice figure making everyone recoil with his rendition of Johanna (Mea Culpa). The lovers Johanna and Anthony, played by Desiree Frahn and Nicholas Cannon, blend well in their duet Kiss Me, though character-wise they have less to work with. Mark Oates is toadying and creepy as the Beadle, giving his usual talented performance, especially amusing to the audience with his silly Parlour Songs.

Joanna McWaters, in the critical role of the beggar woman, manages to be pitiable, pathetic and crass at the same time, a sterling accomplishment. Mat Veveis is guileless as Tobias, eager to please and childlike. His duet with Mrs Lovett Not While I’m Around is lovely, a contrast to his part in Pirelli’s Elixir. Each of the performances complemented the others, all surrounded by the terrific chorus work so carefully managed by Maunder. The use of heights in the staging and the cleverly rotating main set piece made flowing from one scene to the next easy, with great lighting keeping the focus where it was needed.

State Opera has provided many great productions, great performances: Mingay and Halloran as Todd and Lovett will be remembered as one of them. As I said in the beginning ‘attend the tale of Sweeney Todd’!

Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Twitter: @franeds

Rating out of 5: 5

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Grote Street
Season: 8- 15 May
Duration: 2 hr 45min
Tickets: From $70

Bookings: https://secure.stateopera.com.au/ticketing/WEBPAGES/Event/Dates

Photo Credit: Soda Street Productions

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