Sweeney Todd review, Nov 2005 - Newbury Weekly News

Taste for Murder Who would have ever thought, 20 or 30 years ago, that we would be seeing amateur shows of the quality and level of professionalism, as the BATS' production of Sweeney Todd. From the first stunning tableau; to the final grisly murder, it was all a treat for the eyes and ears.

Stephen Sondheim's dark musical, 'perhaps one of his most operatic, is multi-layered with themes of love, revenge, insanity, rape and not last the serial murders, all woven into an amazing score. It is hugely challenging to the actors, musicians and technical team, but BATS rose to this enormous challenge and pulled it off with skill and flair.

The drama unfolded in the foggy, oppressive streets of Victorian London, with Sweeney's attempts to revenge himself against the corrupt judge who had seduced his wife and entrapped his daughters. Unfortunately, more than the judge fell foul of his and Mrs Lovett's ghastly deeds.

Rob Wilson's Sweeney Todd was powerful and menacing and Tracey Gonzato added good comedy to her considerable vocal skills as Mrs Lovett the pie-maker. Theresa Lunn as Johanna sang beautifully and as Anthony, her ever-hopeful young sailor-boy lover, Stephen Westwood, too was in good voice.

Although it may have been deliberate, the two characters were a little too melodramatic and lightweight for my taste. George Tinsley brought out the nastiest elements of Judge Turpin, and two more great voices and portrayals were evident in Gary J Myers (Beadle Bamford) and David Allard (Signor Adolfo Pirelli) Siobhan FitzPatrick was terrific as the beggar woman and Bryn Hughes, as poor, pitiful Tobias, not only sang well but displayed great acting skills. The chorus; too, were splendid, handling the intricate music well. Music director Trevor Defferd got the best from the principals, chorus and excellent orchestra and, on the production side, lighting was terrifically atmospheric, costumes were great, the set ingenious, with its revolving truck and moving walkways, and the sound well managed (if a little under-amplified in the first act).

Any production with Ray Jeffery as director and choreographer is in very good hands and this was no exception. His brilliant use of the chorus, imaginative groupings, principal direction and overall concept were first-class. Congratulations to all involved.

Trevor Dobson

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