This Halloween, in Birmingham’s Blue Orange Theatre, audience members witnessed the chilling events that engulfed the cast of Night Project Theatre in their fantastic production of Sweeney Todd.
The musical thriller, by renowned composer Stephen Sondheim, is a popular choice of production for many groups; however this performance stood out from the rest for a number of reasons.
Firstly, director Ian Page’s casting decisions were nothing short of perfect. Hannah Lister who plays Johannah sings as sweetly as a bird and Kaz Luckins’ comedic timing as Mrs Lovett is brilliant. We also have a captivating performance from Benedict Powell, whose voice and expression fit the role of Anthony beautifully. Powell’s vocals are wonderfully crafted and a treat for all. The cast have excellent chemistry on stage, particularly during the sections of duets. Jez Luckins and Duncan McLaurie are a brilliant duo both vocally and visually as Beadle and Turpin. Phil John’s performance as Pirelli is comedy beyond measure, as is Dan Jones’ portrayal of young Tobias.
The casting of Sweeney Todd himself was an unusual choice and this intrigued me from the beginning. Thom Stafford plays a gritty, almost contemporary ‘East-End’ depiction of Todd, and he really makes this role his own. His insane emotions are in this production made relatable, unlike the madness that is usually the focus of Todd’s character. He and the director have crafted a new representation of the character, one that is more ‘real’, encapsulating the theme of the final number; that Sweeney Todd could be anyone or anywhere. The cast on the whole were charismatic and delivered an exciting show.
The proximity between the audience and the performers was intimate and inclusive. Although the stage space was quite small, the set was cleverly designed to allow swift and discreet scene changes. The set had its own character, comedic at times, and the lighting was complimentary to the characters’ changing moods. It was great to have the actors interact with and move into the audience easily; a benefit of using this enclosed space.
Looking at the presentation of music, I was very impressed with the standard of the vocals. Even for a small cast of twelve, a range of different styled voices worked together to create a strong chorus packed with intricate harmonies and impeccable timing. I commend Chris Corcoran, musical director, for the shaping of the vocal work, with particular emphasis on diction and expression.
Whilst the band performed excellently, unfortunately at times the music was lost underneath the louder vocal sections and general stage noise. This could have been more well-balanced within the theatre, as the music of this play has such an emotive character and I feel this did not always come across. Some of the choices of midi ‘voices’ on the keyboard didn’t fit the mood, meaning the arrangement didn’t lend itself to the dramatic style of the score; however I cannot flaw its timing.
Overall, this was a fantastic production, filled with humour, charisma, originality and lots of blood and gore! What more could you want this Halloween?
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