I’ve been dying of hunger waiting to see this British import of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (here after referred to as Sweeney Todd) since first hearing about it. It sounded like so much delicious fun, performing the musical inside an actual pie shop, the 109-year-old Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop in Tooting, London. So when I planned my trip to London last summer, my hope was to see and ingest some pie and mash. I had heard that it transferred to an unused restaurant in the west end, courtesy of Sir Cameron Mackintosh, for thirteen weeks in 2015, but once again I was thwarted. I can’t recall if it was bad timing or just plain ‘sold out’, but regardless of the ‘why’, I missed it. So I was thrilled last year to hear that it was coming across the pond and setting up shop at the Barrow Street Theatre. Not exactly the pie shop I had envisioned but regardless, I had to make sure that I was there this time. I wanted those Hot Pies.
Our initial dinner companion, Taylor, as I expected, played Tobias with all the forlorn charm, glee, and innocence needed. He seems to be having the time of his life as he ushers us back into the pie shop after the interval. The beautiful song “Not While I’m Around” carries all the naivety and deceptive power required by the Mrs. Lovett and Tobias. He and the others all do impressive work in Sweeney with each and every one of those savorous Sondheim numbers. The young lovers (the ever so handsome Matt Doyle and the exquisite Alex Finke) are glorious and a wee bit crazy. The lovely and funny number “Kiss Me” plays joyfully with the theatricality of young lovers falling madly and deeply in love at first glance which Joanna giddily acknowledges when she sings that she doesn’t even know Anthony’s name.
The Judge Turpin (an impressive Duncan Smith) is perfectly cast, with the strong voice to go with the imposing frame. Brad Oscar as his side kick in menace, Beadle Bamford, leans a bit too close to a Nathan Lane impersonation at times which didn’t give him the menacing demeanor that the part requires, but the whole production leans towards a vaudevillian feeling that was entirely engaging and festive. Betsy Morgan as both the Old Woman and the shady barber, Adolfo Pirelli, gleefully bounces back and forth and beyond, serving up an impeccable performance each and every time she appears, and god, what a voice she has.
The whole production is more fun and startling, rather than dark and moody which works so well in the environmental set-up. The Barrow Street/Barrington Pie Shop space works surprisingly and delightfully well, easily shifting for each scene needed. It’s an inventive and creative use of space and dynamics, that only starts feeling a tad bit forced in Act II when the bodies begin to pile up in the bake house downstairs. It feels a bit clumsy but by then we are all so giddy with joy that we are totally willing to brush that aside and take it all in happily. This piece of hot pie sliced by a demon barber went down amazingly well. It is the best pie in town, and if I could get another ticket, I’d go back for a second helping.
So for more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com