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“Sweeney Todd”

Sweeney Todd is a tour de force for any Company, and in the main HHTC gave us a very good version.  The full chorus music was excellent, and the audience were very impressed by the production as a whole.

The set, which I understand was designed by Lee Marsh, Hugh Vinson and John Eames, was excellent, it covered all the requirements of the show, without the need for scene changes, and everything technical worked really well, from the chair that Mr Vinson built, through the ‘cut throat razor’ that drew a very nice line in blood on the victims throats, to the mincing machine.

The lighting – designed by John Stacey and Nick Taylor - was good, it gave us variety for the different scenes and some excellent mood-setting.  There were a couple of times when cast members were not lit, but it did not deter the people concerned or spoil the end product.

I liked the costumes, they suited the mood of the piece, were all a good fit and looked good. I particularly liked the Judge’s main suit, and Pirelli’s waistcoat and jacket.

Dan Cowtan had once again worked his magic with both the cast and his orchestra, who got the right feeling for this rather menacing piece, and who accompanied the singers without overpowering them, bringing a complete understanding of the music which communicated itself to the audience.

Sweeney Todd is a very difficult sing, but mostly everyone stepped up to the plate.  The first number was very atmospheric, creating the feel for the production.  Maggie Harvey certainly knows how to grab an audience and keep them with the fast-moving entrances and exits.

There were certain people who stood out for me – James Penniston as Anthony Hope gave us a really sympathetic performance, his voice was super, and he acted extremely well too, I really enjoyed his performance.  A former winner of my award for Best Youth Performance, I am pleased to see that I was not wrong in recognising him. The relationship between him and Ellie Dobby as Johanna, was really believable, I thought Ellie also sang well with a lot of feeling.  The turbulent relationship between the two was good, with a step up to the intensity of them running away, which kept us on their side.  

I thought Ellie did really well in the asylum scene, and I liked the assimilation of the asylum too.  When the other inmates entered the stage I got the feeling of despair and inhumanity from them all, it was very well-acted and sung – with plenty of movement.

Alfie Glasser (another of my previous award winners) also turned in a very good performance as Tobias – he has a depth of understanding that came through into the part, and he sang it very well – I thought the emotion in the number with Mrs Lovett was very good.

Marlon Gill gave us a good Sweeney Todd, although I would have liked a bit more depth in the character, and just needed a bit more darkness in his portrayal.  That said, he coped well with all the technical parts required, and gave us plenty of angst when needed.

I thought Naomi Glasser as Mrs Lovett started a bit tentatively, but grew on me and into the part over the course of the show. She gave us all the different traits of the woman, the deviousness, the motherly feelings towards Tobias, the need to use the people Sweeney murdered in her pies, it was all there.  I thought she’d got the essence of the character well.

Steven J Davies created an excellent character as Pirelli, he made him amusing and sly, but I felt the accent was a little too thick occasionally, but this ironed itself out and I felt as I always do with Steve that he gave a really good performance.  He has such a mobile face that he uses to perfection.

George Watkins – who won my award for Best under 18 Youth performance for Valjean in Les Mis, gave us a good Beadle.  Well sung, and I particularly liked the way he did the number at the harmonium.  I just needed him to be a bit more obsequious in his relationship with the Judge.

Nick Heritage was an imposing Judge – he certainly looked the part and sang very well, with meaning, but I needed more menace from him – there wasn’t enough contrast between him and the other cast members – and in the number when he was beating himself I didn’t get the feeling of revulsion that I needed.

Helen Metheringham as the Beggar Woman had a super voice, and really gave us the angst in her situation, and slightly ethereal quality, which I really liked.  An excellent addition to the Society, and someone I hope we will see more of.

There were some good chorus scenes, the fire was particularly well done, and the ladies of the chorus were very strong, I wasn’t always sure that the men stacked up against them, but they were fewer in number, and the music was for the most part delivered with feeling and emotion.

I thought the bows were quite subdued which suited the mood and didn’t lighten the effect of the production upon the audience.

So, all in all a very good production of what is a very difficult show to do – but I am glad the audiences built during the week to see what was a very good show, with the cast richly deserved of the enthusiastic applause.

Hemel Hempstead Theatre Company

SWEENEY TODD”  review date: 4th October 2012

Boxmoor Playhouse

Director:  Maggie Harvey   MD: Dan Cowtan


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