Sweeney Todd The Victorian Melodrama - Wilton's Music Hall
Sweeney returns to tend his roots
Opera della Luna have brought Todd home in their new production that integrates the music of the time with this classic Sondheim-less tale of greed, power and most importantly murder. Expect avant-garde performances, slapstick farce and terrific operatic vocals all underscored by talented orchestral players.
This is not the Sweeney Todd most of us know. There are no swing your razor revenge numbers here but instead, we are treated to an earlier version of the demon barber, gifting audiences an insight into how the tale has adapted and evolved over the years. Part opera, part play and part pantomime the piece invites audiences to boo the villainous Todd whilst revelling in the marvellous operatic talent on offer.
Wilton’s Music Hall is of course a perfect venue for this piece, doing the heavy lifting in transporting us to the halls where productions similar to this would have been performed. Draped in translucent fabric the staging is straightforward but utilised well to form the backdrop of a murky and perilous Victorian London - a trap door waits patiently for Sweeney’s victims on the lower centre stage. The overall design is simple and it works nicely to emphasise the performances of the cast, with the bulk of the tone setting being provided by the orchestra positioned at the side of the stage, helmed by Toby Purser. Harnessing the work of composers Micheal William Balfe, Julius Benedict and Henry Bishop, they beautifully replicate the lost sounds of the original productions adding tension to the dramatic moments and providing humorous live foley.
There are multiple strong performers in the small cast, most playing multiple characters with varying accents and demeanours. Paul Featherstone is excellent as the conniving and hunched Reverend Lupin, his fingers in eerily constant motion. Madeline Robinson’s Johanna is determined and headstrong, with Robinson able to flex her wildly talented vocals multiple times throughout the evening. Her range, both in tone and dynamic range, is something to behold. As the demon barber himself, Nick Dwyer does a good job, also displaying strong vocals, but never quite encapsulating the evil or desire of Todd, leaving me wanting more terror and fear to emanate from his performance. As the piece progresses, the cast are able to find more of the camp humour, Matthew Siveter particularly able to generate laughs when he sings dearly about his love for Mrs Lovett’s pies.
Myself and the audience took a while to settle into this production, quietly unsure about what type of show we were in for, having never quite experienced anything like this before. That hesitation steadily diminished, with the understanding that we were allowed to enjoy the silliness on offer and chuckle at the comedic mishaps. There is so much to love here but equally room for the production to grow. Excellent vocal and comical performances from the entire cast go a long way but an overly lengthy second half and a bewildering plotline dampen those highs somewhat. It was fascinating to experience a traditional version of this infamous tale and see its progression - well worth a visit if that’s your thing.
Running until 29 April - Tickets