Monday, 18 July 2011

Attend the Tale...

I am (and I will say this now) a Stephen Sondheim nut. His beautiful, intensely complicated melodies and hysterically clever lyrics awaken something of a fanatic in me, and so it was a joy for me to see my first production of the Sondheim classic 'Sweeney Todd'! Despite having loved both the film and the Broadway 1979 soundtrack, I had never seen it performed, and I was, needless to say, very excited. On top of this, it was a National Youth Music Theatre production at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, and so I took it to be a bar-setter; I myself am embarking on a two week course with the National Youth Theatre soon, and I am properly terrified now I have seen the standard of performance they put on... wow, I have to match that!?
As any musical theatre fan will know, Sweeney Todd is not your average musical, nor is it an easy singalong, which made the kid's production all the more thrilling (I say 'kids' - mostly late teens/early twenties). When you know the score as well as I do it's easy to tense up, and to lack faith in the cast; ooh there's a hard bit coming up, are they going to get it right? Oh god this song is FAST, can they do it? That sort of thing.
Lizzie Wofford as Mrs Lovett during 'A Little Priest' - singing
and beating 'pie mix' (Play-Doh) in time to the syncopated music?
No, not easy.

But ten minutes in I was ashamed of my scepticism. How professional they all were! What beautiful voices! Lizzie Wofford as Mrs Lovett particularly captured my attention: this was probably because she had a wonderfully powerful voice (built for Sondheim!) and she had impeccable comic timing, but it was, I confess, probably also because I covet that role. I want it. It is my Precious. Ever since meeting Sweeney Todd I have wanted to portray the pie-baking, scheme-making Nelly Lovett - I unfortunately don't have a voice half as wonderful as Lizzie's, but OH I want to give it a go! And if I get it half as right as her, I will be proud of myself! She also highly resembled Angela Lansbury (1979 cast) - weird.
Matt Nalton as Sweeney, my friend and I agreed (same friend of 'I love you David!' fame in my first post), was a little lacklustre. Again, another gorgeous voice, but he was not a psychopath... and by the end Sweeney IS a total psycho. He's willing to kill everyone and anyone, something Nalton didn't really get across; there are several moments when Sweeney cracks, and behind the calm, calculating exterior, we see a terrifying madman - Nalton had a chance to really go for it, to scream his lungs out, but, alas, he left us wanting more. In a bad way. Still, in the calmer, quieter moments, his Sweeney hit all the right notes.
Ah, it seems so harsh to have to pick out names, they were all so good! Tom Milligan as Anthony; Steffani Nash as the Beggar Woman; Stewart Clarke as Pirelli; all fabulous, all characterisations that were at the same time believable, and also the caricatures Sondheim paints in his lyrics.
A word must also go out to the director, Martin Constantine. The cast only had a small stage to work with, but boy, they worked it. Of course, musical director Jeremy Walker must also get a mention, as well as the fine-tuned orchestra; without their expertise it would have fallen apart.
Please, I urge you, go and see this; the audience were too few in number. I know the premise of the NYMT may bring back memories of dire school plays, but that could not be further from the reality; these guys may be young, but they are seriously talented. The names of the future could be in that program... you are making a mistake if you don't take this opportunity to see them shine.

West End Girl x


  1. It sounds a fabulous production of a terrific musical....good luck with your course!

  2. You brought the production vividly alive. You certainly sold it to me - pity I'm not in the right place at the right time to see it.

  3. Thank you Roz... perhaps next time you are in London Town!