User Rating: 5 / 5

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A morbid tale told with brilliant wit and dark humour, ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ is not for the faint-hearted.  Far from a feel-good storyline, this musical has you laughing for all the wrong reasons and swearing off meat pies forever.  

Westpoint Performing Arts Centre, Auckland

From the Promo:

Best known for its highly anticipated and critically successful film adaption, for the first time in over five years, the 1979 musical thriller ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ will play in Auckland.

Containing some of the finest music ever written for theatre, ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ is an epic tale of retribution and forbidden love. Set in industrial Victorian London, it tells the shocking and notorious tale of Sweeney Todd, who forms an enterprising relationship with the local pie-shop owner Mrs Lovett.

Receiving countless awards internationally, Sondheim’s ground-breaking cinematic score underpins a production of brilliant wit and dark humour.

Produced by Auckland Music Theatre, this eagerly awaited revival will be lead by the award-winning team of Auckland director Richard Neame with Musical Direction by Chris Moore, bringing to the stage the high caliber of Auckland Music Theatre talent in the wonderful cast.

Franciska's Review:

I stumbled across Sweeney Todd by chance about a year ago whilst channel surfing and was captivated by Johnny Depp singing.  Sure, I'd heard him singing in the past (channeling Willy Wonker) but this was different.  Mesmerizing in his morbidity.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to see it's entirety and missed the opportunity to record it.  So was super excited when I learned that Auckland Music Theatre were about to stage it.

That excitement grew even further when I learned that I personally know not one, but two of the lead actors!

Sweeney Todd was played by Nick Brown ~ a former colleague:

Whilst the Beggar Woman was played by the gorgeous Carolyn Everitt ~ a member of Janice Webb's "family" of pupils:

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see Carolyn's beauty as she spent most of the show with her face hidden beneath a shawl.  But my word did we get to enjoy her beautiful voice!!

In fact, everyone performed with tremendous skill ~ magical vocals and superb acting.  Minouk Van Der Velde's characterization of Mrs Lovett was sheer brilliance.

I must say though, this was a very long show.  Act One was one and a half hours in duration and following a half hour interval, Act Two was a further one hour in length.  That's almost as long as a classical opera!  And unfortunately, Act One did seem to drag on a bit and possibly could have lost some of the songs that weren't really adding to the story.  But hey, you certainly got plenty of bang for your buck! 

Fortunately, the seats were suitably comfy.

And the super brave (or perhaps sadistic?) were able to purchase Mrs Lovett's meat pies during the interval to satiate their hunger.

But I digress...

This was my first time at Westpoint Performing Arts Centre and aside from the initial faux pas of going up the wrong drive way, the theatre was easy to get to and best of all, provided free parking!  The venue seats approximately 120 and AMT have been performing to sold-out audiences throughout this two week season.  The intimacy of a small theatre certainly adds to the confronting nature of this particular show.

I have mixed opinions on the staging however.  The use of scaffolding worked well to separate settings and placed the actors at eye-level for those of us at the top of the tiered seating.  Not sure how the audience down below feared having to crane their necks to a story above?  I also found the number of times the scaffolding was rotated to be distracting and often not adding to the experience.  And whilst I appreciated the simplicity and industrial look, I did wonder whether more could have been done with the scaffolding to better represent the change in scenes.  But then, I was never a set designer ~ so I'm far from qualified to judge.

I DO have to applaud the actors for their ability to perform at such a height on scaffolding with rails only on one side.  I would have struggled even to get up there let alone act, sing, and move around ~ often in semi-darkness or under blinding direct lighting.

The costume design, hair and make-up were perfect for the era and helped the audience follow Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett's financial success.

The orchestra played well ~ my only criticism being that they were hidden away in the rafters above the stage.  (I rather enjoy watching the orchestra during shows.)

All in all, a fantastic amateur production.  I will definitely be back to see future shows put on by Auckland Music Theatre.