Edmund Bagnell and Judy Kaye in Sweeney Todd

Thursday Theatre Review: Sweeney Todd

Ever wondered if singing and murder go well together?

Well, Sweeney Todd is just the place to find out. This musical is based on an urban legend about a barber in London who kills his clients and his neighbour bakes the victims into delicious meat pies. You may also recognize the name because of the upcoming Johnny Depp movie, which is based on the Sweeney Todd musical.

So, preempting the movie, my show partner Mandy and I headed off to see the touring company of Sweeney Todd that is part of this year's Mirvish season. Mandy told me as we arrived at the theatre that she'd never been to a professional musical before. After the show, when I asked her if it was what she expected, she said that it pretty much was, but that there was less dancing than she expected. She explained that she understood not all musicals needed to have dancing but "you know, dancing is kind of fun".

Of course, just because there wasn't dancing doesn't mean the show wasn't fun. Although I don't think I'd call this a comedy per se, there were lots of laughs to be had, and there was certainly a wealth of talent on stage.

The entire cast was great, and unbelievably talented - all the actors played instruments on stage in the production, so these people sang, acted and played the score, all at once. I'm not sure it's legal for people this talented to exist.

Specifically, Mandy and I were both very impressed with Judy Kaye who played Mrs. Lovett and David Garry who played Sweeney Todd, they had wonderful chemistry on stage and . David Garry has a voice that will make you swoon, it travels through your body and grabs you by the gut demanding your attention. I have to admit, I ended up having a crush on Garry's voice.

I mentioned earlier that the actors played the score on stage and there was no orchestra pit. It is an interesting choice to have the instruments become part of the story. Although it brought out a whole new level of impressed in me when it comes to the actors, I think ultimately I didn't like it as much. Things feel a bit hemmed in for me, less opportunity for moving around, maybe even an element of distraction. It's hard to describe. Although, even though I'm not sure it worked for me, I'm still glad to have seen it, because I was very curious to see how it would play out, and I have no doubt it's a personal taste thing, and for others this will be their favourite part.

In terms of overall impressions, when I asked Mandy if there was anything she didn't like about the show she said: "the theatre was too cold!"

If her only complaint was the climate, then this production must have gotten it right.


- Sweeney Todd runs Tuesdays to Sundays at the Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King Street West) until December 9
- Ticket prices range in price from $45-$90 (top balcony tickets for the Wednesday 2pm matinee are only $30)

Photo of Edmund Bagnell and Judy Kaye by David Allen

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