REVIEW: Sweeney Todd is a triumph!

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What a fantastic opening night - a gloriously dazzling production of this haunting and thrilling Victorian horror story with a bold and complex operatic score. Bravo to all the cast and crew and a huge thank you to Mr Barker and Mrs Morpeth. Read our five star review below 

SWEENEY Todd is not a challenge to be taken lightly, but in the hands of Ripon Grammar School’s sixty-strong cast and crew it was a triumph.

This bold and thrilling production of one of Sondheim’s best-loved and most complex works, which even the most experienced of directors have confessed to shying away from, will be remembered for years to come.

Thankfully, for a musical where humans are ground into savoury pies, there is not a lot of blood on display in this quasi-operatic production, but it’s packed full of grisly, stomach-curdling theatricality.

Jamie Tabor commands the stage as an utterly convincing Todd, the runaway convict full of passion and despair, a complex character out to settle old scores.

Having returned to London after serving 15 years of hard labour for a crime he didn’t commit, he hopes to reunite with his beloved wife, Lucy, and their young daughter, Johanna.

But as he learns from his neighbour Mrs Lovett (Helena McMurray) — who operates a squalid meat-pie shop below his old parlour — Lucy poisoned herself after being assaulted by the same lecherous judge (Felix Denby) who sent him away, and who is now the guardian of his teenage Johanna (Tassy Bell).

With help from Mrs Lovett and his friend Anthony (Ned Sladden), who has fallen for Johanna from afar, he plots vengeance on the judge and soon transforms from victim to villain.

Affectingly conveying the sense of a once-good man hollowed out by grief, Tabor’s voice soars with impressive clarity and range as he evolves into a throat-slashing serial killer whose victims are put to good use in Mrs Lovett’s bakery.

McMurray is terrific as Mrs Lovett, the grisly pie-maker, with her humour, vibrancy, comic personality and madcap physicality stealing many of the gruesomely playful scenes.

But her barnstorming and sassy performance is interspersed with some touching moments of real tenderness too.

While Tabor and McMurray may be the main stars of the show, each and every one of the cast – and, without exception, their exquisite voices - shine brightly.

Felix Denby is a convincingly pompous and slimy crooked Judge Turpin, while Tassy Bell is captivating as Johanna, the child he stole.

Ned Sladden brings a wonderful vocal quality to the young romantic Anthony while Nancy Manners shows great emotional depth in her role as the lewd beggar woman.

There is superb humour from Xander Galloway-Gee as Tobias, the barber’s apprentice, Theo Kendrick as Pirelli the florid pseudo-Italian barber and William Keens as the judge’s lackey, Beadle Bamford.

And let’s not forget the ensemble, delivering powerful performances in the big, key numbers while creating stunningly memorable visual scenes.

The 20-strong student orchestra deserves a huge shout-out for its mastery of Sondheim’s dark operetta, more usually performed by opera companies since its Broadway debut in 1979.

In the hands of these musicians, this dynamic score, accompanied by the soaring voices on stage, results in a suitably pulse-raising experience.

Combined with a sumptuous set and period costumes, this was a feast for the eyes as well as the ears - although the pies are not to be recommended.