“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

By: Hugh Wheeler/Stephen Sondheim
Featuring: Jonathan Roxmouth, Charon Williams-Ros, Michael Richard, Cameron Botha, Sanli Jooste, Anne-Marie Clulow, Jaco van Rensburg, Adam Pelkowitz, Kelsey-Lynn du Toit, Germandt Geldenhuys, Weslee Swain Lauder, Pauline du Plessis, Megan Rigby, Candice van Litsenborgh, Claire Simonis, Earl Gregory, Brandon Moulder, Schoeman Smit, Luciano Zuppa
Directed by: Steven Stead
Produced by: Pieter Toerien and KickstArt
28 November, 20:00
Montecasino Theatre and Studio

Musicals are sometimes scorned at and with good reason. Being commercially successful and paradoxically reproducible, it earned itself the nickname of “McTheatre” (Rebellato, 2010). The musical is usually spectacular (Gänzl, 2006) with impressive special effects (New York Show Tickets, 2008). The plot is often light and uncomplicated with a happy ending (Brantley, 2009) to the point that Rebellato (2011) describes commercial musicals as “pleasure machines.” That being said, I am a sucker for a good musical and Sweeney Todd is an exceptional musical.

The combination of the “feel good” genre and melodramatically macabre storyline works remarkably well. The vaudeville performance style and Quentin Tarantino-esque blood spatters were deliciously bizarre and the costumes, make-up and lighting all contribute to make the spectator feel as if he or she were trapped at an eerie Halloween party. The production was performed in the smaller Montecasino Theatre and Studio, rather than in the Teatro, and the intimacy of the smaller venue emphasised the grisly atmosphere. Sweeney Todd confronts the audience with an absurdly dark plot and an accumulation of corpses reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, rather than the light plot and happy ending usually associated with the musical.

Both Jonathan Roxmouth and Charon Williams-Ros gave sterling performances. Although I have seen Roxmouth in other productions, I find it difficult to imagine either of them as anything other than their characters. Williams-Ros brought a cheeky swagger to the stage while Roxmouth’s imposing physique and matching voice demanded the audience’s attention.

What most impressed me, however, was how polished the production was. At no point during the production did any member of the ensemble break character. They were all in perfect rhythmic harmony.

Sweeney Todd is spectacular, impressive, highly enjoyable, and delivers on every promise that the “pleasure machine” of musical theatre makes.

References:

Brantley, B. 2009. London’s musicals: Intimate or outsize. New York Times.http://theater.nytimes.com/2009/07/08/theater/08brantley.html?pagewanted=all (Date of access: 19 December 2012).

Gänzl, K. 2006. Musical theatre. In: Chambers, C. (red.). 2006. The continuum companion to twentieth century theatre.http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199754724.001.0001/acref-9780199754724-e-1900 (Date of access: 17 January 2013).

New York Show Tickets. 2008. The advent of the Broadway mega musical.http://www.nytix.com/Links/Broadway/megamusicals.html (Date of access: 19 December 2012).

Rebellato, D. 2010. Theatre and globalization: Are we in an age of globalized theatre? Telegraphhttp://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2011/jan/18/mega-musicals-theatre-west-end (Date of access: 19 December 2012).

—. 2011. Does mega-musical boom mean theatre’s bust? The Guardian.http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2011/jan/18/mega-musicals-theatre-west-end (Date of access: 19 December 2012).

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