This week’s production of Sweeney Todd in the theatre has been stunning. Stephen Sondheim’s score is notoriously challenging and the Borlase cast and orchestra rose confidently to that challenge. It was very impressive to see so many student performers in the orchestra playing alongside professional musicians under Mr Miall’s baton. From the moment the original set-design was revealed with the first lighting cue, the audience was completely mesmerised. The ensemble singing was very impressive and with their wild gothic hair and make-up, they set the chilling scene for this horror musical. Sweeney Todd, played by Cormack Diamond swaggered on to the stage in the opening ballad and had us all gripped by his intense energy; he was clearly a man possessed. You believed that he was capable of anything as his desire for revenge dominated his every moment, simmering until it exploded in rage as he sang “They all deserve to die”, slitting the throats of the entire cast. His quest for revenge took the audience on a blood-curdling journey of horror as he murdered victim after victim in is barber’s chair. Each victim was sent very swiftly down a trap door and disappeared into the very convincing oven. Todd’s simmering aggression was balanced beautifully by the hilariously outrageous Mrs Lovett played by Issy Jones. Her casual and conscienceless delight in making pies out of the flesh of Todd’s victims was presented brilliantly in the final song of act 2 where she, Todd and the whole cast danced with the pies that contained the various meaty qualities of a range of characters from Bishops to Bank Clerks.
Charlie Brockwell was a very convincing evil and horridly lascivious judge – definitely playing against type he finally received his just desserts and was sent down the barber’s chute, his throat slit. He followed this friend the Beadle played by Sean Douglas who also had this throat slit after entertaining us all with his comic song about many, many bells in the Tower of Bray. Maddie Smith transformed herself from the delicate young wife of Todd into that same wife as a demented old lady; she brought humour and pathos to the role. Casting Juliette Dudley in the role of Pirelli was a superb idea. She had everyone laughing out loud as she strutted through the shaving competition and again, somehow turned being murdered into high comedy too. Josh Leech injected great fun to the role of Tobias and also fragility and tenderness when he sings the ballad, Not while I’m Around. Against all the darkness of angry, flawed characters, Mark Darcy’s Anthony and Lauren Hibbert’s Johanna brought a glimmer of hope and innocence to the story.
The whole show was an absolute treat with very clever use of the company as narrators. They are hilarious dancing around in bathing suits and disturbing as the lunatics breaking out of the asylum.
Overall, this was a slick and thoroughly professional show, worthy of any West End Stage and much deserving of the standing ovation it received every night.