Rob Stafford Music. Music Services. Piano teacher. Accompanist. Piano Sales. Piano Buyers Guide. Woking Surrey
Glowing review from The Sondheim Society's critic. Sweeney Todd Rydens Enterprise School Hersham.
SOMETIMES the English language doesn't have adjectives eloquent enough
to do justice to an event when it is beyond special. Too many have lapsed into
cliche - like awesome, amazing, astounding. And we're not up to the Bs yet.
The extraordinary talents on display onstage and behind the scenes in Rydens
Enterprise School's production of Stephen Sondheim's most complex work
Sweeney Todd deserve words to match, so let's not beat about the bush -
there will not be a better schools production of Sweeney anywhere in the world this
year and Head of Drama David Swann, in his first show for the Hersham school,
has set an unbelievably high bar for future efforts.
Using a cast of 90 from the school's 1100 pupils, and with a
well-drilled orchestra of 20 featuring past and present pupils and one teacher
under the baton of long-serving Head of Music Alicia Johnson (who co-directed
the show with Swann), this was surely as ambitious a musical-theatre project as
any school could undertake even without taking into account the difficulty of
Sondheim's intricate words, rhymes and rhythms.
There is a less gory, simplified, shorter version of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street available to
schools but this wasn't it. This was the real McCoy. "We wanted to test everyone
as fully as possible to see exactly what they were made of," explained Swann,
who himself played the role of Tobias as a Mountview Theatre Arts student a decade ago.
This was no version for wimps although, with respect to a
younger audience than normal for this very adult musical, some sexual references
were softened. But all the throat-slitting and blood were there in this
eye-popping tale of murder, revenge and unrequited love, and the trapdoor
shooting the multiple victims of Sweeney's cut-throat razors - 'My Friends' as
Phillip Thomas, in the title role, so sinisterly called them in one of
Sondheim's greatest lyrics - had to be in good working in order to cope with
Sweeney is, beyond everything, a team effort but so outstanding
were some of the performers that it would wrong not to mention them individually.
And if Cydney Wood, who played Mrs Lovett, the maker of 'The Worst Pies in London'
who unrealistically dreams of a new life with Todd 'Beside The Sea' - wonderful
versions of two very amusing songs - but cannot see that
her adoration is not reciprocated by a man solely bent on revenge, does not get
to the very top if musical theatre is her choice of career, it will come as a
This is an 18-year-old who can act, sing, make us
laugh and cry, the lot, all with perfect timing, an actress totally at home on a
stage, and I look forward to see her name up in West End light one day.
Thomas, also 18 and with a rich, sonorous voice you could hear in the gods at
the Albert Hall never mind Rydens, had the juicy main part and got every bit of
blood out of it; little Lottie Andrews gave us as good a 'Green Finch and Linnet
Bird' as you would hear anywhere as a petite and pretty Johanna; Matt Cross aged
himself very well with walk and attitude; Jack Pearson as the fraud Pirelli had
a great time with his cockney as well as pseudo-Italian accent; and Matt Fry, as
love-smitten Anthony, Jamie Cruttenden, as Tobias, and Jon Baines, as Beadle
Bamford, all sang with great conviction and power.
Special mention to Carole Andrew for astonishing attention to detail with
the costumes. And an even more special one to Lloyd Wilson, Tom Coombs, Reuben
Cain and Mike Serrato for an ingenious multi-level set that many a professional
company would have killed for.
All in all, bl**dy marvellous - a most
appropriate use of that expletive given the circumstances.