The tale of Sweeney Todd is extremely dramatic, but that’s what makes it so deliciously enticing. In a story of love, loss, vengeance and extremely suss meat pies, Sweeney Todd, although a 1979 musical, still feels fresh and exciting. In TEG Life Like Company’s production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, the titular role is played by none other than the incredible Anthony Warlow.
Wrongfully accused and transported to Australia so that Judge Turpin could take advantage of Benjamin Barker’s beautiful wife Lucy, Barker finds himself returning to London 15 years later as ‘Sweeney Todd’, now mad and seeking vengeance for the theft of his once happy life. In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, every character is flawed and despite there being no true winners in this story, we can’t help but cheer for Mr Todd on his mission of revenge.
Despite there being only one set in this concert style theatrical showcase, TEG Life Like Company’s production of Sweeney Todd is the best that I have ever seen. The costume designs are gothically enchanting and the performances by every cast member down to the ensemble is perfection. Characters Anthony and Johanna played by Owen McCredie and Genevieve Kingsford are pure and annoyingly innocent in this otherwise dark setting. Tod Strike as Adolfo Pirelli, although the understudy to the revered Michael Falzon who has sadly been forced offstage due to his unfortunate diagnosis with cancer (and we wish him the best in his fight), Strike is the much-needed comic relief and saviour of the production given the unsettlingly circumstances. I also thoroughly enjoyed Daniel Sumegi performance as Judge Turpin who despite being the main villain of the narrative, ironically doesn’t actually kill anyone.
But it’s the two leads Gina Riley and Anthony Warlow that reign supreme in this dark tale as characters Mrs Lovett and Sweeney Todd. Known more for her television roles, Gina Riley has a lovely voice, impeccable comic timing and is hilarious as cheery evil Mrs Lovett. With a performance so great, one must wonder why Riley doesn’t frequent the stage more often. Last but not least, Anthony Warlow is so comfortable, majestic and effortless in his role as mad barber Sweeney Todd, it’s as if he was born to play this role. Warlow’s rendition of “My Friends” as Sweeney is both incredible and captivating to watch, where the barber is reunited with his blades while plotting sinister and somewhat justifiable retribution. I daresay, Anthony Warlow in his role as Sweeney Todd may be one of the best in his entire career yet.
With songs such as “A Little Priest”, “Pretty Women”, “My Friends” and only six performances at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre from Thursday the 20th of June to Sunday the 23rd of June, it would seem a darn right shame to miss out. Run, don’t walk to attend the tale of Sweeney Todd before this marvellous production disappears from Australia forever.
For more information on TEG Life Life Company’s production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and tickets visit: lifelikecompany.com
Photo supplied with photography by Ben Fon.