London Stories and Tips

SWEENEY TODD (THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET)

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member

BIRTHDAY TREAT

I love going to the theatre so when I heard Sweeney Todd was opening in London, in 2012, I thought this an ideal treat for my daughter’s nineteenth birthday. The icing on the cake was Michael Ball playing the starring role as the infamous Mr Sweeney Todd. My daughter (musical theatre student) was well up for this and so was my husband. I admit being dubious as to whether this would really be a story for me to see onstage as I don’t like the story of Sweeney Todd, me being a little squeamish , but I thought as this was a musical, I’d try my hardest to be brave.

BOOKING TICKETS

I booked at the theatre before the show opened (it had been showing in Chichester, Sussex). I was worried I’d choose a date when Michael Ball wasn’t appearing. I asked about this at the box office and was told they hadn’t been informed of any dates Mr Ball wouldn’t be appearing; usually this near to the opening they would have already been informed of days off. I decided to take a chance.

Prices: £67.50, £55, £37.50, £25, £20. Premium seats available.

Ticket prices includes £1 restoration levy.

Tickets can be booked by phone (0844 811 0053 - 24 hours) or by going to the box office at the Adelphi Theatre (Open Mon-Sat 10am – 8pm) or on-line.

Group and schools tickets are available at reduced rates, as are day tickets. Children over the age of twelve are allowed in with parental guidance.

Access tickets are available at £25 each for a disabled person and one carer.

PERFORMANCE TIMES

Performances until 22 September
Mon – Sat 7.30pm Wed & Sat 2.30pm

Running Time 2 hr. 45 min (including interval)

No performances 30 July – 11 August 2012

OUR SEATS

I asked for tickets for the matinee performance on Saturday 21st April and was shown available seats. I’d already printed a seat plan but even before the show had opened my first choice of seats were taken.

I asked for the best seats still available. The seats we took were in the stalls, row M and were fairly central to the stage.

DISABLED ACCESS

The Adelphi has wheelchair access.

A disabled toilet is available.

Access tickets are available.

Drinks may be brought to disabled customers in the auditorium.

Infra-red system with headsets.

Access dogs are allowed inside the auditorium. Staff can dog-sit for four dogs per performance.

LOCATION

409-412,
The Strand,
London WC2R 0NS

Local underground stations:
Covent Garden (Piccadilly line) and Charing Cross/Embankment (District, Circle, Northern and Bakerloo lines). We travelled to Covent Garden which doesn’t have escalators but instead lifts which means queuing at busy times. The walk took a little over ten minutes. We passed actor Derek Jacobi; he didn’t seem to recognise us!
Nearest car parks are in Chinatown and Trafalgar Square.

STORY/ MUSICAL INTERPRETATION

This is an old story set in nineteenth century London, supposedly fictitious although some feel based upon truth. I’d prefer to believe it made up. Benjamin Barker a young barber was happily married to Lucy and they had a young daughter called Johanna. Lucy unintentionally catches the eye of a judge who becomes determined to have his wicked way with her. Benjamin is transported by the judge on a false charge. This results in judge Turpin raping Lucy.

Benjamin vows vengeance on the judge. After fifteen years he returns to London, now known as Sweeney Todd. He believes his wife has died. Todd’s welcomed by Mrs Lovett, owner of the struggling pie shop and he sets up his barber shop above this. Soon the quality of the pies improves- now being amply filled with meat and no longer, as in the song lyrics, "the worst pies in London."

The show starts with a dark stage and the setting of old London town as the ensemble sing "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" and the mood is set from the start.

Sweeney Todd returns to his homeland after being exiled.

This story has been read and seen on film, television; theatre and musical stage many times and remains a popular story. I was worried about the horror aspects but needn’t have been. When Sweeney brandished his sharpened cut throat razor for the first threatening time, all was quiet in the theatre and the suspense could be felt. Michael Ball teased with the razor and the moment became amusing as was intended. The score by Stephen Sondheim is, as always, clever and translates the story excellently for the musical stage.

At the start the scene is set with the ensemble singing "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd."
Imelda Staunton’s rendition (as Mrs Lovett) of "The Worst Pies in London" is terrific. I thought Lucy May Barker (Johanna) made a good attempt singing the difficult "Green Finch and Linnet Bird."

I enjoyed "City on Fire/Searching" by ensemble, Johanna, Anthony, Todd, Mrs Lovett & Beggar Woman.

James McConville (Tobias) and Imelda Staunton’s duet of "Not While I’m Around" made me quite sad.

CAST

Directed by Jonathan Kent, I thought this a good cast. Everyone played their part to a good standard or higher, although for me the best was the wonderful voice and presence of Michael Ball and wonderful acting of Imelda Staunton. A diminutive lady possessing a huge talent. Outstanding as Mrs Lovett, with perfect timing.


Michael Ball looks completely different; sombre and intimidating. I’d heard that some of the audience left their seats in disgust during one of the first shows believing the lead role was being played by an understudy when they’d paid to see Mr Ball. I was prepared for this but still had to peer hard to see if it was him. No worries though, as he sang with his smooth, soaring voice there could be no mistaking the inimitable Michael Ball.

SEATS

As the show began I couldn’t believe our luck. Although it seemed to be just about a full house, there were two seats vacant in front of us and fortunately they remained empty for the shows duration. This meant we had a clear view of the stage. In my opinion the Adelphi hasn’t much of a rake and so if large people had been directly in front of us this would have meant the view wouldn’t have been as good. However, I’d say these were good as far as the choices go as the stage is high and much could be missed if sitting too near. I think a stiff neck would be likely.

SOUVENIRS

A kiosk sells souvenirs. As is often the case in these places wares are overpriced and you are expected to choose quickly. I didn’t find the person serving very helpful and thought he was a little impolite in serving.

BARS

As is usual in London theatres drinks at the bars were expensive. We did have a drink but I can’t remember how much the bill came to but it would have been more than in a pub. Our drinks were served in plastic tumblers so we could take them into the auditorium.

TOILETS

I think the interval proves stressful as there really isn’t enough time especially for us females to use the lavatory and purchase a drink. My husband’s always happy to go to the bar and if he didn’t come along then I’d order drinks before the show for the interval as it saves time but there still is a mad dash for the toilets and unless you are sitting near and are close to an aisle being in a long queue is inevitable. There just aren’t enough toilet cubicles in these old theatres for the amount of people needing them. I think that for the price paid for a trip to the theatre one shouldn’t have to rush and queue. At another show in another theatre I was at the end of a queue and when I left the toilets wasn’t allowed back to my seat until the solo (a key moment) had finished.
Either more toilets are needed or longer for the interval.

OVERALL

I thoroughly enjoyed Sweeney Todd, as did my husband and daughter. I was thrilled to have seen, and heard, Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball.
I thought the cast and ensemble very good.

Costumes were authentic as was the scenery which created an excellent believable atmosphere.

I feel this theatre needs more of a rake to be able to get the most from a show such as this. As said, our seats were good (made better by the fact that there were two empty seats in front of us) but I always do my research and choose as well as I can but, if I was new to theatre or didn’t have the means, or knowledge to find the best seats for the price I decided to pay, then I could have been disappointed.

For me, and my two companions the day was a success and the price paid worthwhile for the great, and memorable, experience.

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