Tale serves up pies, gore and more
STAGE musicals don't come any grislier than Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street.
No wonder Stoke Youth Musical Theatre Company is cheekily describing the show as "a bleeding masterpiece."
Bleeding being the operative word, of course. "Pies, music, blood and gore...Stoke Youth give you more," is the slogan under which the young company is presenting Sondheim's razor-sharp musical.
Elliot Clay, from Stone, stars as Benjamin Barker, alias Sweeney Todd, who returns to London embittered after being falsely imprisoned and transported to Australia.
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Hungry for revenge, he opens a barber's shop above the pie shop run by the unsavoury Mrs Lovett, played by Olivia Birkin, of Newcastle, who played opposite Elliot in the company's production of Les Miserables.
Together they hatch a mutually advantageous, if rather macabre and gruesome plot: Sweeney will murder customers in his barber's chair and Mrs Lovett will bake their remains in the tastiest pies in London.
Sondheim's musical, first performed in 1979, was based on the play by Christopher Bond, which depicted Todd as a tragic figure, driven by revenge, rather than greed.
In 2007, Tim Burton's film of the musical, which starred Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd and Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs Lovett, won two Golden Globe awards and an Oscar. Also featuring Amy Eley, Sam O'Rourke and Matt Bateman, the Stoke company's production of Sweeney Todd represents the biggest challenge yet for the group known simply as Stoke Youth.
But spokeswoman Michaleen Hilton says the company is recognised as a training ground for young talent, and the performers tend to meet new challenges head on and deliver remarkable performances time after time.
"This show features 40 actors, aged from 11 to 21, and although it's an extremely demanding musical, our youngsters seem to thrive on raising the bar," said Michaleen.
"In this very ambitious production we have talented young players from all over the county, and under our director Craig Armstrong they are relishing the opportunity to appear in Sondheim's award-winning musical thriller."
Director Craig Armstrong is assisted in the performance by David Morrey and the musical director is Steve Williams.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street is at The Stoke-on-Trent Rep from November 9 to 13 at 7.30pm with Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tel 01782 616486/815540.