Chichester Festival Production, West End Revival
Adelphi Theatre, London
Friday 23rd March 2012
Sondheim's musical thriller, recounting the tale of the infamous Fleet Street barber, has seen many revivals since it's 1979 opening on Broadway, but I'd be surprised if any can compare to the truly thrilling current West End production, enjoying a limited run at the Adelphi.
Brought forward in style to the 1930s, the dark, seedy streets of London believably house the sordid activities in Mrs Lovett's Pie Shop and the barber's shop above. An industrial, ingenious, set gives depth and height to a naturally fairly static show, paired with subtle lighting changes to highlight key areas and more importantly retain a shadowy darkness over the stage.
The key performances are a complete masterclass in dramatic musical theatre. Todd, played by an almost unrecognisable Michael Ball, is tantalisingly horrific, with sudden changes of mood and a mesmerising conviction in his search for bloodthirsty revenge with a seductively resonant voice. Ball's talent is given a real test in this dramatic role, which he excels at effortlessly.
Imelda Staunton could have had the part of Mrs Lovett written for her. Played with more than a touch of comedy, she steals every scene, bringing just enough villainy and a constantly mad gleam in her eye to explore every aspect of a complex character.
The rest of the cast are strong, with particuar note to Tobias (James McConville) whose duet with Mrs Lovett for "Not While I'm Around" was a touch of true sentiment to juxtapose with the surrounding horror beautifully.
A wonderful night at the theatre - don't miss it!