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Review - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: A delicious production

By Liv Wilson

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Directed by Shane Webb

Musical Directed by Nicky Griffith

Phoenix Ensemble

The Tin Shed

Beenleigh Showgrounds

Season runs until May 28th. Bookings:

Sweeney Todd, an unjustly exiled barber, returns to nineteenth century London, seeking vengeance against the lecherous judge who framed him and ravaged his young wife. The road to revenge leads Todd to Mrs. Lovett, a resourceful proprietress of a failing pie shop, above which he opens a new barber practice. Mrs. Lovett’s luck sharply shifts when Todd’s thirst for blood inspires the integration of an ingredient into her meat pies that has the people of London lining up… and the carnage has only just begun!

Phoenix Ensemble’s production of Sweeney Todd was marvelous; it had all the elements of a well produced musical and did incredible justice to Sondheims’s difficult libretto and score.

Shane Webb directed the cast and did an especially good job telling the story in a way that respected the traditional charm of the piece whilst also adding various moments that were unique and almost reinvented. I thought the casting of the leads was near perfect, the ensemble played their roles with enthusiasm and the orchestra brought a level of professionalism to the show that was welcomed.

Leading the show in the titular role was Lionel Theunissen who captured the charm and troubled nature of Sweeney Todd in a commanding way. Theunissen’s vocal abilities were unmatched and note-perfect all night. His acting and embodiment of the character were impressive from start to finish. Theunissen was a great choice for the role and he totally owned the twisted character.

The perfect accompaniment to Theunissen was Meg Kiddle as Mrs Lovett. She couldn’t have been better in this show, her comedic acting was fantastic and her belt continually blew me away song after song. The chemistry between Kiddle and Theunissen was spectacular and they complemented each other well, oftentimes highlighting the other’s strengths be it vocally or theatrically.

The lovable Daniel Lelić as Anthony & Ebony Banks as the precious Johanna worked well together with beautiful chemistry. Their characterisations were fabulous and it made up for the few vocal flaws in their performances.

Alex Dundas Taylor was menacing as Judge Turpin and played his role with just the right amount of villainous flare. He was able to showcase his acting abilities with this role and I suspect he had a lot of fun bringing Turpin to life. Every villain needs their sidekick and Puawai Herewini played Beadle Bamford very well. Herewini’s vocal strength was showcased in this role which was fabulous to hear. Both Dundas Taylor and Herewini commanded the stage and worked together nicely when paired together.

The featured ensemble members were what really rounded out the show and took it to the next level. The ballads and ensemble numbers were extremely powerful and had clearly been taught with care and precision by Musical Director, Nicky Griffith. The choreography was conventional and I was pleased to see that Choreographer, Victoria Sica didn’t overdo it.

The live orchestra was simply outstanding all night! They worked well with the leads to ensure that any slip-ups were not noticeable and they provided an eerie backdrop to the show. There were a few songs where the orchestra was significantly louder than the singers which made it hard to hear the vocals, however a small and easy fix.

I absolutely have to give praise to Hudson Bertram, who at 16 years old played the demanding role of Tobias with such commitment and professionalism. His vocals were solid all night and he was totally immersed in the character. His stage presence in Pirelle’s Miracle Elixir was that of a much older performer and when paired with Meg Kiddle in Act 2 his abilities were amplified even more. I’m looking forward to seeing Hudson grow as a performer; he is one to watch without a doubt.

Joshua Moore as Adolfo Pirelli was an instant crowd favourite & had the audience engaged with his larger than life portrayal of Pirelli. I loved Moore’s acting, vocals and physicality; they were such a perfect contrast to Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovette’s more sinister portrayals. Slightly more diction in The Contest scenes by Moore and the featured singers would have been nice and especially necessary for those who haven’t heard the songs before. Moore had the tough job of singing in a European accent, which when paired with Sonddheim’s fast pace and syncopated libretto could have been quite a disaster but he pulled it off with such gusto.

I couldn’t help but be in awe of Chloe Evans as the Beggar Woman, she was both hilarious and haunting in her vocals and stage presence. She has a stunning classically trained voice which was showcased nicely in this role. The contrast between her ‘two characters’ was cleverly done and captivating.

The mechanical parts of the show including costuming, lighting, set and sound were all done extremely well. The set design was one of the standout parts of the production. Both a clever concept and executed perfectly, the moving parts of the set were to die for. The barber chair, blood and pie oven were extremely captivating and cleverly done.

I went into this show with high expectations and was pleasantly surprised that every aspect of the show was done to a high standard. Phoenix Ensemble is well known for producing entertaining shows but I believe that this has taken them to the next level.


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