A great performance and adaptation of a West End hit for a student-led production, showcasing the talent that Showstoppers has to offer. Excellent acting, outstanding music and an all-round good night out.
Sondheim’s story of the demon barber of Fleet Street has toured the globe, from London’s West End to Hollywood, and now it has arrived in Southampton. The show is on in our fair city until the 9th of March at The Annex, thanks to Southampton Showstoppers. The ambition of bringing such a highly-recognised production to Highfield campus is a risk, but one that the Director (Phoebe Armstrong) and the rest of the team do with ease. Now, onto the meat of the story…
Firstly, although the budget may not be as big as a Hollywood movie, the stripped back approach to stage layout and props didn’t detract from the story or the performance. The multi-layered stage allowed for different scenes to be enacted in tandem with each other ther, which really added to performances which required two distinct settings, such as those that are set in both Todd’s barber’s and Mrs Lovett’s pie shop. Due to the venue, the audience is always in the vicinity, and that leads to some great interactions with the cast, especially that of The Beggar Woman (Georgia Harper) and Toby (Amy Springett).
As far as the acting goes, some never broke character, even when the spotlight wasn’t on them. This is especially true od Mrs Lovett (Samena Brunning), Judge Turpin (John Wilders) and The Beggar Woman, who didn’t even break character when she was amongst the crowd, begging for a sweet from the lady sat opposite me. Although the overarching theme of the production is that of betrayal and death, there were some light moments, including a tender dialogue between Toby and Mrs Lovett, which suggested(and I am paraphrasing here), that men are trash. Another lighthearted scene is a comedic musical number between Mrs Lovett and Beadle Bamford (Nick Ong), during their Parlour Songs performance. At times, it did feel like Sweeney Todd (Alex Wareham) was being overshadowed by his fellow cast members, as being emotionless and bland is difficult to do without sinking into the background, especially with other big characterisations happening in the same scenes.
Coming onto the musical aspect of Sweeney Todd, the band’s performance was spot on, headed up by the Musical Director (Ben McQuigg). The singing was mainly ok, although there were some moments where the harmonies clashed because some members of the cast were in the wrong key. Where the show was lacking was in the choreography. Some more synchronisation was needed between the company, and a bit more fluidity in body movement, as it felt a bit clunky at time. However, these are only small niggles which don’t overly detract from the Sweeney Todd experience.
Showstopper’s Sweeney Todd will be performed at 19:30 6th-9th March 2019 at The Annex. You can reserve tickets here.