The Hills Musical Company's revival of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is bloody good. Director, Hayley Horton masterfully stages Stephen Sondheim's musical about a revengeful tonsorial artist who is aided in his crimes by a less than savoury pie maker. Malcolm (and Hayley) Horton's set design evokes the heaving bustle of a ramshackle, Dickensian London. On these grimy streets the full company bursts into the opening number The Ballad of Sweeney Todd which is thunderously powerful and hints at the madness, murder and confessional anguish that follows.
From the off, the audience is spellbound and there's little doubt that the house will "attend the tale of Sweeney Todd." No place Like London and The Barber and his Wife are back-story as Todd (Rod Schultz) tells his naive friend Anthony why he loathes London. The songs tell of how a gifted barber named Benjamin Barker was transported to Australia for a crime he did not commit. Judge Turpin who sentenced him had an ulterior motive: he wanted to get his slimy hands on Barker's beautiful wife Lucy. Schultz is appropriately brooding and malevolent as Todd but it's his accomplice Mrs Lovett (played superbly by Fiona DeLaine) with her mixture of avarice, desire and comedy, who really captures the attention. DeLaine's presence is commanding every time she enters the stage and her interaction with Schultz on A Little Priest is wickedly funny.
There's also a bevy of first-rate supporting performances, not least from Michelle Nightingale as the miserable Beggar Woman and Jamie Jewel as the sycophantic Beadle Bamford. There are plenty of other wonderful moments including Belinda Smith's lovely voice on Green Finch and Linnet Bird and Eden Plaidsted's Wonkaesque portrayal of Pirelli during The Contest.
Of course all the main characters are flawed. As is Mrs Lovett's fantasy of residing, comfy-cozy, by the seaside with Mr Todd because as the barber foreshadows "everyone deserves to die." Therefore, the ending is predictable but the journey is marvellously haunting and thoroughly enjoyable. For a breathtaking evening's entertainment, attend the tale of Sweeney Todd, it's both cut-throat and razor sharp.
Hills Musical Company presents
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
music and lyrics Stephen Sondheim | book Hugh Wheeler
Director Hayley Horton
Venue: Stirling Community Theatre
Dates/Times: 11–12, 17–19, 24–26 November at 8:00pm | 20 November at 5:00pm
Tickets: $17 – $27
Bookings: (08) 8339 3931 | BASS 131 246 | www.bass.net.au