Our tip: Arrive early to make sure you have time for a drink at the bar before you go in. You’ll need it.
Food: Don’t eat! Apart for the lack of speedy service at Montecasino, you will not want a full stomach when you see Mrs Lovett’s Pies.
Dress Code: Avoid heels for the tricky cobble stones in Monte, but definitely go on the smart side of smart casual.
After the show: Stay for a photograph with Jonathan Roxmouth slitting your throat. It’s a once in a life time photo booth experience and you can touch his bald head.
Some people could wonder how a horror reflects as a musical. Strangely enough, so does the cast. We also wonder how these things will look and whether the audience will be pulled in as much as we have been. And 9 times out of 10, we never get the answers. We know how we do it, where the blood comes from and how we vanish off the stage, but we don’t get to see how realistic it looks. I can image that the Sweeny Todd cast is left feeling satisfied that their special effects are working because as Sweeny (Jonathan Roxmouth) slid his razor across the first throat of the night the audience burst in to applause almost as bubbly as the blood spurting from his victim’s neck.
Set in 19th century England, the musical tells the story of Benjamin Barker, alias Sweeney Todd, who returns to London after 15 years’ transportation on trumped-up charges, to take revenge on the judge who banished him. For those of you unfamiliar with Sondheim musicals, there is the film adaptation of Sweeny Todd starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter for you to use as a dipstick to see whether you can stomach it – excuse the pun. In musical theatre, we go totally crazy over Sondheim but to anyone else, I can imagine that its not the easiest thing in the world to listen to. His music can be beautiful, but it can also be incredibly brash and discordant which makes it amazingly versatile and effective in story telling. This also makes it very difficult to pull off.
With Rowan Bakker as musical director, Sondheim’s music was in safe hands. Apart from the lack of an orchestra and one or two bum notes from the cast (it happens) I was completely in awe of what this team managed to pull off in a few short weeks of rehearsals. The stars of the show for me were undoubtedly Mrs Lovett (Charon Williams-Ros), the beggar woman (Anne-Marie Clulow) and Adolfo Pirelli (Germandt Geldenhuys). This musical is wonderful in that it has a role for every type of person you could possibly conceive of. All the talents who are sometimes overlooked for being an odd shape or size or looking too “unusual” to play the ingénue were all in this one powerhouse cast.
This is a superb and gory production and you should definitely see it. I remember being told once that you know you’re really an actor when you don’t mind looking ugly for a role. When you cast off all personal vanity and pride and can just be disgusting. In this production, the whole cast had to do that. Jonathan Roxmouth invested in his character to the full extent of shaving his head (much to many a fan’s distress). Jonathan is one of our leading and most experienced talents. He has a voice of a sexy angel but sometimes I wonder whether he is the best choice for absolutely every single role when we have such a vast and varied talent pool to fish from. I have enjoyed each role I have seen him in (including this one) and you can’t fault him on being consistently fantastic. I just felt like there were so many other people who could have been given the chance on this “meaty” role.
Sweeny Todd is a thrilling display of glorious voices and awful characters. Tickets are selling out fast at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino. The run ends on the 29th of November. With direction by Steven Stead and a clever but simple set by Greg King, the cast is set for success when they tour to Cape Town next year.