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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Newbury Musical Theatre Society - Sweeney Todd

23rd to 26th October 2013.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Service with a smile

Sondheim's Sweeney Todd is no push-over but NMT pull it off in style

Newbury Musical Theatre: Sweeney Todd, at Arlington Arts, from Wednesday, October 23 to Saturday, October 26

Stephen Sondheim's dark musical, perhaps one of his most operatic, is multi-layered with themes of love, revenge, insanity, rape and not least the serial murders, all this woven into a complex score, with songs from the comic to the cruel (often simultaneously). It is hugely challenging to actors, musicians and technical team, but Newbury Musical Theatre rose to this challenge and pulled it off amazingly well, displaying the results of much rehearsal.

The opening was a little hesitant, but we were soon into the grisly goings-on and the second act particularly caught the spirit of the piece.

The two principal roles were in the oh-so-capable hands of husband and wife team Jamie and Debbi Ledwith, both turning in impressive performances. Jamie Ledwith as Sweeney Todd created a sinister character and had a splendidly brooding stage presence, flipping from a man with a legitimate grievance into a deranged psychopathic killer. With his fine voice he commanded the stage. Much of the humour was provided by Debbi Ledwith, who gave a delightful performance with a lightness of touch which made the prospect of 'people pies' seem like the only sensible and logical solution to the problem of 'leftovers'.

Anthony and Johanna are tricky roles, but Martin Rogers and Kate Izzard presented them well, the latter shining vocally. Tobias could have been written for Shaun Blake, who excelled in all aspects, and there were strong performances from Jeremy Mann (Judge Turpin), Paul Hyde (Beadle Banford), Holly Lucas (Beggar Woman) and Gordon Fry (Pirelli).

Credit must also be given to the assorted townspeople who worked very effectively in not only filling many of the smaller parts, but also acted as a 'chorus' by commenting on the action and foretelling the omens of doom.

A clever set served the action well with atmospheric lighting adding to the drama. Musical director Michael Evans had obviously worked hard on the intricacies of the score vocally, but it is clearly difficult to condense a full orchestra score to two keyboards, and I found the accompaniment underpowered and lacking at times.

However, hats off to director Tony Randall, choreographer Nikki Rogers and NMT for taking on the challenge and presenting, in all, a terrific piece of theatre.