23RD JULY 2004

"The history of the world my sweet, is who gets eaten and who gets to eat!"

Anyone for a pie? Wouldn't recommend those with weak stomachs to eat before/during the show, as thankfully, there is quite a bit of blood onstage. Anyway, have had the joy of seeing two Sondheim musicals this month, though Sweeney Todd is my fave. So dark, and what nasty lyrics! Booked up tickets for a preview showing, due to a lovely cheap offer in my local newspaper, though of course it had all the dates (and month!) wrong.

So off myself, sister and friend went, to the Trafalgar Studios...theatre. Passed through Trafalgar Square, where Thunderbird 3 had recently landed, and was still smoking (I kid you not!). Was a very hot day, though with my naive mind, believed the theatre would have that wonderful (though seemingly rarely-used) invention called air conditioning. If it did, I felt no trace of it! What a hot auditorium! Note: to those who used to play the old lazer game Quazar, look at the ceiling of the corridor to the auditorium, it's very Quazar-esqe, and there's even a weird light in there! Arghh, watch out for the tacky red team, they're hiding round the corner!!

Ahem. When you walked in, the character of Tobias (Toby? I never know what to call him) was sat, gagged and tied up, watching everyone. A lady was wandering round the stage, just moving stuff around. Don't ask why, but I was feeling a little iffy over this production. I think I was a bit worried that it wouldn't compare to the DVD with George Hearn and *shudder* Angela Lansbury. I needn't have worried, as it was excellent! Let me make it clear that all the actors/singers were extremely talented and hard-working people! Not only were they all onstage the whole night (was great for having a staring contest, especially sitting near the front), but they each played one instrument or more, as well as singing. So in fact, they were the orchestra! Never seen anything like it. Was funny to watch so many members of the cast take their turn on the piano, kept repeatedly thinking, "What a gifted bunch!" It took a little while to get used to at first I'll admit, but wasn't an issue by the end. The only problem I could see with it was that this was more of a concert (I'm thinking the Les Miserables 10th anniversary concert here), was more sung than performed. In most cases, but I'll get onto that. So if you didn't know the story, or hadn't seen before, might have been a bit confusing.

Onto the cast. Sweeney Todd (Paul Hegarty) was played really seedy, the way he'd grope at Mrs Lovett. I quite liked that idea though, that he wasn't so distanced from her - they are partners in crime after all! Urr, not that all partners in crime should be sleeping with each other... He was also quite violent - when first meeting Mrs Lovett, he slammed her head onto the coffin onstage(!), which made me gasp. Was quite uncalled for, but I think was showing the audience that Sweeny Todd was already an unstable man, and if he was hurting such an 'innocent' lady as her, what else would he be capable of? Still, was quite a shock to see, made me want to charge down and hit him ;) Of all the recordings I've heard, the character has always had a deep voice; Hegarty's was the highest version I've yet to hear (not to say that he's on helium or anything!). Just feel that the voice should be deeper. When not singing, he'd stand/walk around, scowling at the audience. My sister and I both agreed that he looked like Clive Carter, who can currently be seen as Khashoggi in We Will Rock You. Even his speaking voice sounded a little like him! Felt there should have been more interaction with the audience during 'Epiphany' but as this was only a preview, so might happen yet.

Speaking of cast interaction, I come to Mrs Lovett (Karen Mann). I'd seen on the flyer that she wore a short, leather mini skirt, and immediately thought, "Hmmmm." This was used as a great visual gag in the show though - she came out, facing us with an apron on, but whilst singing, turned round to reveal the skirt and suspenders! Kept making me laugh, seeing her trot around the stage in that clothing. Her singing was fine for the role, and she was at her funniest during 'God, That's Good'. At one point, whilst saying, "And that'll be thruppence" to an audience member, he offered her his drink, which she took a sip from, was hilarious! I actually felt rather sorry for her in this production, seemed almost regretful at what they'd done. Also liked the Lady Macbeth-inspired scene near the end, scrubing her hands with blood all over them.

The rest of the cast worked well together. Toby (Sam Kenyon) wandered into the crowd whilst singing 'Pirelli's Miracle Elixir', patting any poor soul who happened to be bald. Would like to have seen him have more 'mad' hair on his head, as I've always imagined it to be. Am extremely glad the Judge's (Colin Wakefield) song was included, though I felt needed to ham up the role a little more, he wasn't coming across, well, perverted enough! Ahem, Anthony (David Ricardo-Pearce) was quite gorgeous, and had the innocent-but-slightly-stupid act down well. Johanna (Rebecca Jenkins) had a fantastic spaced out expression most of the time which I really think suited the character....course it might just have been cos she was trying to remember all the music she was playing (they had no sheet music on front of them after all!). I feel the Beggar Woman (Rebecca Jackson) needed to come across much more insane, perhaps a bit more screaming and wide-eyed glaring - I did like the interaction between her and Sweeney Todd at the end though - DON'T DO IT!! How odd that Pirelli (Stephanie Jacob) was played by a woman! She also played Fogg, a very creepy portrayl.

Phew, this is turning out to be a long review, but bear with me. The best thing about this whole production was the lighting; absolutely wonderful! Without it, the show would not have been a success. Always suited the mood of the scene, either from below (always very sinister), above (made great shadows on Sweeney Todd's face), and best of all, from between the floorboards of the floor and wall. When someone was 'done in', the whole stage would light up red, and a shrill, ear-piercing (not literally) whistle would be blown. Was quite horrible when all the lights were dimmed, and only Mrs Lovett's torch was shone on the audience. Ha, a special mention must go to the audience member who let out the biggest laugh when near the end of the first act, the Judge asked Sweeney Todd for a shave - people were laughing so much the actors had to stop for a moment - and then Todd delivered the line, "The closest I ever gave!" Ahahah!

Complaints - too hot. A woman a little along from me got up during the performance, staggered to the edge, and fainted, no doubt from heat! I really really REALLY wish the men hadn't been wearing ties, I much prefer the braces worn in other productions. Just felt like Sweeney Todd was your average businessman gone wrong. Would like to have seen blood splattering out from the blade, though the idea of blood-stained shirts worked well. Not really a complaint, but wow, Sweeney Todd killed Johanna! He really was a bastard in this production. Excellent!

Great production overall, certainly unique, hope to see many more in the future!

7TH DECEMBER 2004 We weren't meant to see this show, oh no no. Had fancied seeing the Woman in Black, but the lady in the box office refused to sell us student tickets until an hour to go (there was an hour and a half to go, hmm) and were told there were very few seats remaining (with a grin, I might add). So myself, sister and friend David stood confusedly in the centre of Leicester Square, debating on what to see. I'm a complete and utter sucker for Les Mis, but no no, seen too many times, and Phantom's usually impossible...We left it to David to decide, and he simply said, "Sweeney Todd." I'd forgotten all about that, so ok, sure. The lovely box office staff sold us house seats in the centre of row E, the stalls, gorgeous :) The same cast and version as above, only now transferred to the New Ambassador's Theatre, which was soooooo cute and cozy (I squeal). We all agreed if we were to own our own little theatre, it would be that one. Perfect for little shows and performances. Though WHY they decided to have the female toilet door open *onto* the main staircase to the stalls is beyond me - I'm sure a few people have been knocked flying!

Naturally, a guy sat down on front of me with some ridiculous hairstyle, all quiff-like and curled upwards. These people do it on purpose, I know it! Just as the show was about to start, this gigantic (not meaning to be size-ist) FAT guy squeezed himself along the narrow row, and plonked/oozed himself down next to me. He took up half of MY seat, overflowing over the arm rest, breathing loudly, and had the cheek to keep dozing off, before snapping awake and snorting! His full heavy weight was leaning on me, so I finally snapped and hit his leg had with mine, and strangely enough, he didn't touch me again...Nothing likea good bit of violence in the theatre, eh? He drove me insane, and nearly ruined an otherwise perfect evening.

Exact same cast, and really enjoyed their performances this time round (not that I didn't before, but they seemed really into it this night!). This time round, the fact that the actors were also playing their instruments didn't seem to interfere at all, maybe cos I knew what to expect. Seeing Mrs Lovett suddenly leap up and play that trumpet will always make me laugh ;) Paul Hegarty (Sweeney Todd) seemed to interact a little more with the audience this time, well, acknowledge us a lot more - when sitting to the side, he'd be pulling faces, snarling, was great - he widened his eyes at me for staring too long, heh! I like his relationship with Mrs Lovett in this production - a lot more like he genuinly likes her, in comparison to loathing her. During 'A Little Priest', he slapped poor Karen Mann's arse so hard, the sound left an echo, followed by her shrieking, "Mr Todd!!" I was pretty certain last time that he killed Johanna, but on second viewing, no I don't think he does, even though the whole stage does go red (I LOVE that idea!), she doesn't don a bloodied shirt unlike all the other victims. Anthony (David Ricardo-Pearce) is a *very* innocent version, and speaks very high - heh, I think he was taking the piss out of himself when replying to Sweeney Todd, his voice seemed to be getting slightly higher each time! Love the slightly different orchestrations, and the show most definetely benifits from having 4 extra chorus members for the larger songs, make it sound more fuller.

Ah well, the run is nearly finished. It'd be great for them all to stay together and produce another musical in the same style; I think Phantom would be excellent, but there's a sliiightly bigger budgeted version down the street ;) Still, this could be the cheaper, more arty version, which I'd most certainly pay to see - the Phantom carries around his own portable organ *snigger*, Christine plays the violin (homage to her father), etc. Though I read something about the production going to America, so if they do, break a leg!


- My Sweeney Todd-related artwork! Look at it or I'll eat you!

- Buy the original Sweeney Todd recording here, though beware Ms Lansbury, she dances!

Cat Nip, all its characters & the artwork Trudi Castle;
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