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The usually affable Michael Ball is unrecognisable as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, back incognito, after 15 years away, to wreak revenge on the Judge who unjustly had him deported.

Even better is Imelda Staunton’s superb and ever-practical Mrs Lovett, self-confessed purveyor of the worst pies in London – until the duo conspires to boost business by filling the pastry with tasty human flesh.

Jonathan Kent’s unmissable production moves the action several decades forward out of the 19th century to an impoverished, corrupt London of metal stairways, the gloom pierced by ominous shafts of light which beam the focus on Ball’s brooding Sweeney as he slits jugulars with increasing abandon.

Stephen Sondheim’s wonderfully witty lyrics are a constant – and often comic – joy.

And his music (straddling the boundaries of musical theatre and opera) is sometimes achingly beautiful, sometimes tragic and sometimes pure unadulterated fun as Mrs Lovett imagines the joys of a seaside idyll.

Gory and glorious in equal measure, this is an occasion to relish long after the curtain comes down and John Bowe’s self-flagellating Judge Turpin has been justly despatched with the brutally efficient slash of a gleaming cutthroat razor.

Adelphi Theatre, Strand, WC2E 7NA. Until Sept 22. £20+ Nearest Tube:  Charing Cross 

www.sweeneytoddwestend.com


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THEATRE REVIEW: Sweeney Todd, Adelphi Theatre
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