SWEENEY TODD - MAY 2017
Director - David Tatnall
Musical Director - Martin Patterson
Choreographer - Christina Finn
By Stephen Sondheim & Hugh Wheeler
Lisa Axworthy (soprano), Jan Baerselman (alto), Imogen Baker (soprano), Peter Barber (bass, Judge), Lucy Barraclough (alto), Wesley Buckeridge (tenor, Fogg), Cressida Bullough (alto), Max Bullough (tenor, Pirelli), Anne Croudass (alto, dancer), Kevin Denson (bass), Adrian Hickford (bass, Sweeney Todd), Dan Hickson (tenor, Beadle), Katie Hickson (alto, Mrs. Lovett), Andrew Hodgson (bass), Louise Hodson (alto, dancer), Marina Humphrey (alto), Peter Lucas (Tobias), Dee Mairs (alto), Simon Meanwell-Ralph (tenor), Alan Morgan (bass), Lorraine Morgan (soprano), Jesse Pincombe (bass), James Rosser (tenor, Anthony), Emma Smith (alto, dancer), Rosa Sparks (soprano, Johanna), Amy Stewart (alto, dancer), Beth Stretton-Platt (soprano, dancer), Annie Tatnall (soprano, Beggar Woman), Gina Thorley (alto), Denise Truscott (soprano), Charlotte Upfold (soprano), Lucy Whiteman (soprano, dancer).
Age UK - Winchester Division
DIRECTOR David Tatnall has taken superb and delicious inspiration from music hall melodrama for a gothic take on this Sondheim classic. Adeptly supported by Martin Paterson's glossy orchestra, a beautiful set and resplendent chorus dissolve before our eyes like Victorian blancmange, make up, costume and lighting echoing the increasingly discordant sounds. All the leads perform well: Katy Hickson is sublime opportunism personified matched in swagger and diction by Adrian Hickford's tortured Sweeney. Peter Lucas belies his young age with aplomb as Tobias whilst Peter Barber's Judge savours each salivatory moment in pursuit of angelic Rosa Sparkes Johanna. James Rosser is an earnest Anthony and Annie Tatnall a spicy beggar woman. A must see!
Scene One +
‘Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd’ – so starts Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 musical thriller. The tale of the famous Fleet Street barber dates back to 1846, when he appeared as the fictitious villain in the Victorian penny dreadful, ‘The String of Pearls’.
As a composer, Sondheim has written some fairly complex musicals, and any amateur company choosing to take on Sweeney Todd needs to rise to the challenge or risk making a complete hash of it. Thankfully, Winchester Musical and Opera Society do rise to the challenge admirably. David Tatnall’s direction sees the audience submerged into a vaudeville experience, bringing the drama right out into the auditorium and involving the audience in the action.
Under the excellent musical direction of Martin Paterson, the nine-piece band is situated on stage, above the actors, and their sound quality is first-class. There is always a concern about having the band in such a position – if the MD cannot see the action on stage and things start to go wrong, then it usually ends up as a major wreck. Thankfully, this was not the case for WMOS, and the hours of rehearsal clearly paid off.
Christina Finn’s choreography dovetails beautifully with the melodramatic music, and each member of the cast, whether principal or ensemble, really gets into character. Adrian Hickford takes on the title role. Sweeney is an immense part, vocally complicated and emotionally tiring, offering the actor a fantastic challenge. Adrian does not disappoint – he is vocally strong and very believable as the revenge-obsessed barber. Mrs Lovett is played with equal menace and affection by Katie Hickson, adding some lovely comic moments throughout as she attempts to wheedle her way into the affections of the demon barber, whose heart is set only on revenge over the callous Judge Turpin, acted with evil pomp by Peter Barbour.
Amongst the other roles there are strong vocals from Annie Tatnall (beggar woman), James Rosser (Anthony), and Rosa Sparks (Johanna). Special mention must be made of Peter Lucas – by far the youngest member of the cast – whose portrayal of the orphan Tobias as he becomes embroiled in the illicit operations of the barber and pie shop is delightful.
This is an excellent amateur production of this beautiful but complicated musical, and although for me the comedy injected by the director isn’t always warranted, it is a brilliant piece of theatre. Just watch out if you are offered a pie!
I can safely say that I’ve never written a review that involved actually being on stage for an, albeit tiny, part of the production. Yet putting down my notebook and pen to sit alongside the cast in one of the chorus numbers gave me a unique insight into the sheer dedication and energy required by every member of the Winchester Musicals and Opera Society to once again score a resounding hit with their lively production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.
Despite claims that Sweeney Todd was a real person, the character first appeared in an 1846 penny dreadful entitled The String of Pearls. Whilst the story is not renowned for its levity, director David Tatnall wrung many comedic moments out of this dark musical. The cast made full use of the whole theatre, performing from the balconies and gangways and even enlisting the audience to sample Piecaramba’s pies from onstage.
The production was a visual treat with both costumes and scenery stunning. Effective choreography by Christina Finn particularly enhanced the big choral pieces and meant there was always plenty to watch.
Vocally, Sweeney Todd is a challenging musical with complicated melodies and harmonies. Adrian Hickford played Sweeney Todd with complete security and, at times, admirable restraint so that we were drawn into the pathos of his situation.
Katie Hickson was a masterly Mrs Lovett and her comic take on the role none-the-less conveyed threatening overtones, especially when dealing with Peter Lucas’ Tobias. Peter himself played Tobias with sincerity and poise, never allowing himself to be overshadowed by the adult cast.
Peter Barber was suitably sinister as Judge Turpin backed up by Dan Hickson, convincing as Beadle Bamford.
The vocal highlight for me was Rosa Sparkes’ soaring rendition of ‘Green Finch and Linnet Bird’ and the orchestra, directed by Martin Paterson, drove the production from the back of the stage, a tricky, but beautifully managed, arrangement.
A rousing and spectacular production!
With the Music & Lyrics by the great Stephen Sondheim about A Fleet Street Barber, Sweeney Todd is well known and loved by audiences. Director David Tatnall has an excellent cast with this production. The musical has been set in Vaudeville style bringing the drama out into the audience and bring some on stage to join in. The set is simple and very effective, lighting and sound is just right. The costumes are also very good.
The first class orchestra is set on stage above the actors under the direction of Martin Paterson the singing by everyone is very good. Christina Finn is the choreographer and there are some great dances and chorus movement.
Adrian Hickford take’s the role of Sweeney he has a strong singing voice and gets right into the character and is very believable, and you can see he really wants to take his revenge on the Judge Turpin who ruined his life. Katie Hickson play’s Mrs Lovett there are some great moments between them, and the comedy comes through. I loved the ‘A Little Priest’ number with the girls taking on the different roles for each of the meat pies, very clever. Another favourite was the ‘By the Sea’ number.
Peter Barber is the evil Judge Turpin and with Dan Hickson as the creepy Beadle Bamford scarily looking like the Child Catcher from ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ this pair brings menace with them whenever they come on, excellent.
The other roles are also well cast with strong singers; Annie Tatnall is the beggar woman, Max Bullough as Pirelli, Rosa Sparks as Johanna and James Rosser as Anthony all played their parts very well. Peter Lucas as Tobias has great stage presence for his young age and I loved his ‘not while I’m around’ to Mrs Lovett.
Each and every member of the cast all acted and looked the part on stage and when in the auditorium keeping in character thought. This was a great production and you should all be very proud of yourselves.