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Long-standing Hornchurch theatrical group prepares to stage dark tale of ‘demon barber’ Sweeney Todd

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 February 2017

The Havering Music Makers' latest show is Sweeney Todd at the Kenneth More Theatre, running from March 2-4. Nick Ford (who plays Sweeney Todd) is photographed here. Picture: Havering Music Makers

The Havering Music Makers' latest show is Sweeney Todd at the Kenneth More Theatre, running from March 2-4. Nick Ford (who plays Sweeney Todd) is photographed here. Picture: Havering Music Makers

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A macabre tale of murder fronted by a barber who uses his snipping skills to deadly effect may not sound like your usual night at the theatre, but it’s music to the ears of a talented theatrical group looking to bring audiences something just a bit different.

The Havering Music Makers' latest show is Sweeney Todd at the Kenneth More Theatre, running from March 2-4. James Knowles and Katey Callaghan (who play Judge Turpin and Beggar Woman) are photographed here. Picture: Havering Music MakersThe Havering Music Makers' latest show is Sweeney Todd at the Kenneth More Theatre, running from March 2-4. James Knowles and Katey Callaghan (who play Judge Turpin and Beggar Woman) are photographed here. Picture: Havering Music Makers

The Havering Music Makers (HMM) tackled heartwarming classic Annie and swashbuckling comedy The Pirates of Penzance last year, but are kicking off this year’s programme with the sinister Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

A production deemed dark enough for king of gothic fantasy Tim Burton (there was an adaptation in 2007) must be haunting indeed, but fear not as the cast promises plenty of laughs and cracking songs to boot when they take to the Kenneth More Theatre from March 2-4.

Katey Callaghan, 30, stars as the ‘Beggar Woman’, a character who has fallen on much hardship over the years, and provides a key plot twist near the end of the tale.

Katey said of the show: “It’s dark but so good, it has lots of humour.

The Havering Music Makers performing previous show The Likes Of UsThe Havering Music Makers performing previous show The Likes Of Us

“The film’s quite a watered-down version, this goes a lot deeper, so I’d say the show is even darker.”

Sweeney Todd is the brainchild of celebrated composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, creator of Into the Woods and A Little Night Music.

The production, staged in Victorian London, introduces us to Benjamin Barker, a barber living an ordinary, undramatic life until corrupt Judge Turpin frames him for a crime he hasn’t committed and he is deported from the country.

With 15 years to stew over this miscarriage of justice, Barker vows to take his revenge, and returns to London as Sweeney Todd, teaming up with pie shop owner Mrs Lovett, whose produce ends up containing much more unusual meat than beef or chicken...

The Havering Music Makers' latest show is Sweeney Todd at the Kenneth More Theatre, running from March 2-4. Nick Ford and Jackie Lowe (who play Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett) are photographed here. Picture: Havering Music MakersThe Havering Music Makers' latest show is Sweeney Todd at the Kenneth More Theatre, running from March 2-4. Nick Ford and Jackie Lowe (who play Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett) are photographed here. Picture: Havering Music Makers

For Katey, of Romford, one of the biggest excitements, and hurdles, has been learning the songs.

“We haven’t done a Sondheim show before and his music is known to be very challenging. It’s not very melodic, it’s hard to sing, but when done properly it sounds fantastic.”

HMM, which rehearses at Whybridge Junior School, Blacksmith’s Lane, Hornchurch, was formed in 1975.

An amateur society, it nevertheless boasts plenty of talented professional performers, including Katey, who took a break when starting a family, but “desperately missed being on stage” and has “never looked back” since joining.

Little Shop of Horrors is among the society's previous showsLittle Shop of Horrors is among the society's previous shows

“We go from show to show and people join and they become part of the family,” she said. “It’s so much fun, especially show week, when we’re close, we have a little panic stage! But in the end it all comes together.

“Amateur theatre is a cheaper night at the theatre and still a really good quality show.”

Following this production, HMM will stage Fiddler on the Roof and then a concert, before Anything Goes bursts onto the stage in 2018.

So after four decades, the society shows no signs of slowing down.

The Havering Music Makers' latest show is Sweeney Todd at the Kenneth More Theatre, running from March 2-4. Alan Phelan and George Davis (who play Pirelli and Tobias) are photographed here. Picture: Havering Music MakersThe Havering Music Makers' latest show is Sweeney Todd at the Kenneth More Theatre, running from March 2-4. Alan Phelan and George Davis (who play Pirelli and Tobias) are photographed here. Picture: Havering Music Makers

Sweeney Todd runs from March 2-4 at the Kenneth More Theatre, Oakfield Road, Ilford. Call 020 8553 4466 or visit kmtheatre.co.uk.

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