Review: Sweeney Todd at Derby Theatre

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Sweeney Todd is an absolute masterpiece from the pen of musicals legend Stephen Sondheim and Derby Theatre’s current production of the show is a triumph from first bar to last.

Sondheim musicals were a feature of the latter years of the old Derby Playhouse and their version of Sweeney Todd is one that lingered long in the memory.

But this production at Derby Theatre doesn’t suffer in any way by comparison.

Arguably the most popular and lauded of Sondheim’s many musicals, this show is set in one of the seamier parts of 19th century London and tells the famous tale of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

A show like this stands or falls on the casting of Todd himself and his sidekick in crime Mrs Lovett.

In Hugh Maynard and Sophie-Louise Dann, this fine production, directed Daniel Buckroyd, has a cast-iron pair of winners.

Maynard is a powerful, glowering presence in the title role, commanding the stage throughout as a driven man who seeks revenge in bloody fashion on those who have wronged him in the past, while Dann makes brilliant use of an absolute peach of a part as Mrs Lovett.

Her portrayal of a seemingly cheery soul with a dark heart is right out of the top drawer.

Acting, music, script, costume, lighting, design, direction: they all combine in a suberb offering that mixed some pretty grim subject matter with dark humour, creating an irresistible whole.

There should be plenty of praise too for the five-strong band of musicians, led by musical director Michael Haslam, who navigate and bring to life the tangy score with its ominous undertones, using considerable skill and dexterity, drawing a wide range of instrumental colours from such a small group.

And any show containing catchy songs like Pretty Women, Try A Little Priest, Not While I’m Around, No Place Like London and God That’s Good puts paid to the rather cheap shot that has been made by some over the years that Sondheim is not a writer of memorable melodies.

Sweeney Todd is at Derby Theatre until October 22 and comes highly recommended.

It is a show with edge that really is a cut above.

You can call the box office for ticket details and availability on 01332 593939 or see for more information.

Photo by Robert Day of Sophie-Louise Dann and Hugh Maynard in Sweeney Todd.