In a mesmerising collaboration between Victorian Opera and New Zealand Opera, the timeless and darkly enchanting musical Sweeney Todd graced the stages of the iconic Sydney Opera House. Directed by the illustrious Stuart Maunder AM, the production masterfully delves into the grim and chilling tale of Benjamin Barker, now known as Sweeney Todd, as he seeks vengeance against those who wronged him and tore his life apart. Set in the hauntingly atmospheric streets of Victorian London, the show follows Todd’s bloodthirsty pursuit of justice alongside the pie-shop proprietress, Mrs Lovett, who repurposes Todd’s tragic past to her culinary advantage. This thrilling tale of love, revenge, and redemption is a spine-chilling masterpiece that leaves audiences spellbound from start to finish.
Stuart Maunder’s direction is nothing short of brilliance. With a deep understanding of the intricate themes and emotions embedded in Stephen Sondheim’s haunting score and Hugh Wheeler’s captivating book, Maunder seamlessly weaves together the elements of horror, humour, and humanity. He skillfully guides the cast to deliver performances that tug at the heartstrings while slightly terrorising the audience. Maunder’s imaginative staging and attention to detail transport the audience into the dark recesses of 19th-century London, creating an immersive experience that is both unforgettable and chilling.
The lighting and set design, ingeniously conceived, play pivotal roles in enhancing the eerie atmosphere of the production. The dimly lit, shadowy backdrops and hauntingly evocative lighting amplify the sense of foreboding and darkness throughout the show. The streets of London come alive with intricately detailed set pieces that perfectly capture the grime and despair of the era.
Jeremi Campese’s portrayal of Tobias Ragg is a revelation. His youthful innocence and vulnerability add a poignant layer to the otherwise macabre tale. Campese’s remarkable vocal prowess and emotional depth make his performance one of the production’s highlights. Similarly, Harry Targett’s depiction of Anthony Hope is imbued with sincerity and passion. His chemistry with Johanna is palpable, infusing the show with heart and tenderness.
As Mrs Lovett, Antoinette Halloran is an absolute standout, portraying the character with a perfect balance of wickedness and vulnerability. Her impeccable comedic timing and powerful vocals breathe life into the complex character, making her an instant audience favourite. But the show’s true star is undeniably Ben Mingay as Sweeney Todd. His portrayal of the brooding and vengeful barber is a tour de force. Mingay’s commanding stage presence and rich and resonant voice send chills down the spine during every musical number. His emotional range and ability to convey the character’s tortured soul make his performance unforgettable.
The supporting ensemble, consisting of talented performers, flawlessly executes intricate choreography and harmonies, contributing to the overall brilliance of the production. Additionally, the orchestra, under the masterful direction of Simon Holt, elevates the haunting melodies of Sondheim’s score to new heights, perfectly capturing the essence of the haunting tale.
This production of Sweeney Todd at the Sydney Opera House is nothing short of extraordinary. It is undeniably one of the best and most compelling productions of the timeless musical I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Get your tickets now to indulge in an evening of unparalleled storytelling, superb performances, and a rollercoaster of emotions.
– The other Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig is an international performer and has established himself as a trusted theatre specialist on the Sydney Arts Scene. While he understands the technical side of theatre, Dan writes for the everyday theatregoer (unlike some of those more prominent publications). When not in the audience, he loves to travel the world trying new gin. Follow him on all the socials @talldancraig
Sweeney Todd runs for 2 hours 45 mins (including 20 min interval) and plays at the Sydney Opera House through 27 August 2023. Tickets are available through the Sydney Opera House.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of the Sydney Opera House.
Image credit: Daniel Boud.