Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is one of the most performed amateur shows but the fact it is a path often trodden makes pulling it off no easier; particularly for a youth group.
“What a challenge,” director and producer of the Five Star Entertainment production Ethan Smith says in his programme notes. It’s a challenge this group certainly meets.
Luke John Marriott cuts a dark and menacing figure as Sweeney, channelling Jonny Depp’s portrayal of the character in the hit film. His strong voice and stage presence would not look out of place in an adult show with just one very minor criticism that there were a few notable slips out of cockney into posh.
Mrs Lovett is a role which can make or break this production and there’s no doubt that Catarina Mendes achieves the former as this show’s shining light. Characterisation, voice, and timing – she has it all in a mature and delightful portrayal. Among her numbers A Little Priest and By the Sea were particular highlights. The chemistry and harmonies with Marriott’s Sweeney are strong throughout.
Elsewhere Abbie Spencer shines as Johanna with a lovely operatic-style soprano voice, supported well by Robert Bellamy as Anthony.
The standard of singing was notably high across the board with Julien Carrouche impressing as Adolfo Pirelli and Joseph Jones an outstanding Tobias with a confidence on stage which belies his youth.
Leah Vassell impresses with her vocals as the beggar woman and Tom Cowan and Sam Purcell are a good twosome as the judge and the beadle
The production is performed to a soundtrack rather than a live band. In such instances, staying in time is always difficult and there were a couple of times where the singing went notably out of sync with the music. The odd times this did happen though it was a testament to the young performers how quickly they got it back.
A chorus is every bit as important as the principals in a dark and atmospheric show like this and each and every member does the society proud, producing an outstanding level of energy until the very end. It is rare one can say there were standout individual performances in a chorus but there are in this one: Hayden Coward and Danielle Boughey are particularly impressive for the intensity of their facial expressions and voices.
The set is basic but effective and some neat pieces of staging add nicely to the action.
This is a very big production for a youth society to take on but this dark, atmospheric and gruesome portrayal is one which Ethan Smith, his principals and especially the chorus members can be very proud of.
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