Sweeney Todd - review
Andrew Carpenter chairman of the newly named Frome Musical Theatre Company described last week's production of Sweeney Todd as a milestone – the first time that the former Frome Amateur Operatic Society had tackled a Stephen Sondheim production and under a new name.
It is a long way from Annie Get Your Gun and proof that the company which has enjoyed huge success over a century is not frightened to face new challenges and to stretch itself and its audiences to the limit.
The tag "amateur" has been dropped from the name and although it has been pointed out that none of the company is paid for the hundreds of hours devoted to the shows, there is nothing "amateur" about this latest production.
It is a menacing tale of Fleet Street barber Sweeney Todd who wreaks the revenge on the supposed death of his wife and estrangement of his daughter by slitting his customers' throats. The gory remains are put into pies by his companion in crime, Mrs Lovett.
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Under the hugely talent direction of Claudia Pepler and her assistant Amy Morgan-Bell, audiences last week were mesmerised by this dark comic classic. She had an amazing cast to help her in what must go down as one be one of the company's biggest triumphs.
Davey Evans was faultless as the brooding executioner, mastering the tricky rhythms and as soon as he walked on staged the audiences knew they were in for a terrific performance.
He was a tough act to match and Teresa Bray succeeded brilliantly. Adding a desperately needed lightness to the claustrophobic gloom, one even felt some empathy for the exuberant pie lady, until we were reminded what exactly she was putting under those pie crusts. Beautifully sung and acted, Ms Bray was superb.
Her performance was equally matched by the truly revolting Judge Turpin played by Andrew Carpenter. It must be the first time Mr Carpenter has stood centre stage and flogged himself.
It is a brave woman who has not stepped on to a stage in 30 years and then reappears in a Stephen Sondheim production. Suzy Howlett is that woman and her beggar woman was an excellent return.
Also adding light to the darkness was Dillon Berry as Tobias Ragg side kick to Ben Hardy-Phillips as Adolfo Pirelli who was the first of Todd's victims. Fine performances also given by Jasmine Shillabeer and Ellis Dackombe as the ill-fated lovers.
The set was ingeniously crafted with the orchestra on stage under the musical direction of David Hynds. After all without a highly skilled orchestra what would Sweeny Todd be?