Review: Havering Music Makers’ ‘triumphant’ Sweeney Todd delights Ilford audience
PUBLISHED: 15:00 03 March 2017
A year after staging swashbuckling comedy The Pirates of Penzance, the Havering Music Makers returned to the Kenneth More Theatre (KMT) for the opening night of a darkly entertaining show about a barber with murder on his mind.
For two-and-a-half hours yesterday evening, the dramatic society treated a packed and enthusiastic audience to its adaptation of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
The musical, the brainchild of Into the Woods creator Stephen Sondheim, tells the tale of Benjamin Barker, who returns to Victorian London with a hatred for humankind and a thirst for revenge after being deported by the corrupt Judge Turpin, who had longed to get his hands on his beautiful wife.
Now going by Sweeney Todd, barber Barker teams up with somewhat unsuccessful pie shop owner Mrs Lovett to exact his vendetta, with most who enter his shop for a ‘close shave’ getting more than they bargained for...
Having seen the Music Makers in action in 2015, when they performed Barnardo’s origin tale The Likes of Us, I was keen to see how they would tackle this more macabre content, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The production held your attention from the off, with an eerie organ instrumental followed by The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (a tune so catchy show-goers will undoubtedly hum as they read the musical’s full title).
Once introductions to Todd and acquaintance Anthony were sorted, we had most of the barber’s back story at our disposal and the show could really get cracking.
Each cast member had brilliant energy and threw themselves into scenes, with the chorus numbers providing many a highlight, such as the frenzied Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir song, where Adolfo Pirelli (Alan Phelan – with an excellent Italian accent) and Tobias Ragg (George Davis) try to sell a crowd ‘magic’ hair growing potion.
As Katey Callaghan, who plays the ‘Beggar Woman’ told me previously, Stephen Sondheim’s songs are notoriously tricky, with many notes off the beat, but the Music Makers tackled the tunes with aplomb, producing flawless harmonies.
The simple set suited the intimate KMT, and Sweeney’s barber chair employed a trick much enjoyed by the audience, who laughed along throughout the show.
Dark though the subject matter may be, the humour comes thick and fast: particular mention must go to George Davis, who injected huge personality into his role as Pirelli’s assistant, and leading lady Jackie Lowe, who was fabulous as bonkers Mrs Lovett.
And of course you can’t forget Nick Ford, who made for an excellent, suitably-sinister Todd.
This was my first Sweeney Todd experience – having not seen the 2007 Tim Burton film – and I was not disappointed. Judging by the loud cheers and claps, it’s clear the rest of the audience weren’t either.
The Music Makers should be congratulated on another triumphant show.
The musical returns to the KMT, Oakfield Road, Ilford, at 7.30pm tonight (Friday), 3pm tomorrow and 7.30pm tomorrow. Tickets are between £15 and £16. To book, call 020 8553 4466 or visit kmtheatre.co.uk.