Review: Sweeney Todd, by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, New Wolsey Studio until April 23

Oliver Ward as Sweeney Todd in the New Wolsey Young Company's production of Sweeney Todd by Stephen

Oliver Ward as Sweeney Todd in the New Wolsey Young Company's production of Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim. Photo Credit: Richard Davenport. richard@rwdavenport.co.uk. 07545642134 - Credit: Richard Davenport

Sweeney Todd is often regarded as, not only, Stephen Sondheim’s masterwork, but also, quite rightly, as one of the greatest pieces of musical theatre ever written. So it’s a huge challenge for a group of student actors to tackle this most ambitious and demanding of shows.

Mae Munuo as Mrs Lovett and Oliver Ward as Sweeney Todd in the New Wolsey Young Company's production

Mae Munuo as Mrs Lovett and Oliver Ward as Sweeney Todd in the New Wolsey Young Company's production of Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim. Photo Credit: Richard Davenport. richard@rwdavenport.co.uk. 07545642134 - Credit: Richard Davenport

Therefore, it’s a huge pleasure to report that, although the New Wolsey Young Company are stretched to their limits at times, this talented group of youngsters manage to infuse this menacing, musical nightmare with all the passion and bile for it to explode across the stage as a fantastically gory, slightly deranged theatrical pageant.

Although set, in a non-specific anytime/no time London, the presentation has echoes of the Penny Dreadfuls, the Victorian horror stories that had people flocking to the theatres to see stage versions of novels like Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde.

The show is well cast and well sung and although the psychotic Sweeney (Oliver Ward) and the murderously mumsy Mrs Lovett (Mae Munuo) hold centrestage with ease, Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd is not a two person show. They are surrounded with a city of colourful, larger-than-life characters, which are given very real form by a hugely talented ensemble cast. Peter Ling plays the self-flagellating Judge Turpin, Asha Ray is his ward Johanna, Connor McGoochan is her sailor love Anthony, Jack Tricker is the duplicitous Pirelli and Tom Beattie is his innocent, urchin-like assistant Toby.

Rob Salmon directs with pace and a style that demonstrates the talent and ambition that this young company have. It’s also hugely impressive to learn that music student George Rennison was the musical director for the show. I can’t wait to see what they do next.


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Andrew Clarke

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