REVIEW: Old English Classic brought to Life by Stagecoach

On Sunday 9th April, Stagecoach Theatre Productions, in collaboration with FM Theatre Productions, performed the musical Sweeney Todd (School Edition) at Teatru Salesjan.

The main gist of the show was that after 15 years of exile, the barber Benjamin Barker returns to London under a different name, Sweeney Todd – eager to reconcile with his family and seek revenge on the judge who sent him away. Upon arriving in London he meets Mrs Lovett, the owner of a meat pie shop, who tells him that his wife Lucy was dead, and that his daughter was under the parental care of the very same judge who had exiled him. Todd is now even more eager to seek revenge. However, he is penniless, so Mrs Lovett convinces him to start up his barber business again. Joanna and a young man named Anthony, have fallen in love in the meantime, without Anthony (who aided Todd on his journey back to London) realising that Joanna was actually Todd’s daughter.

Back at the barber shop, Todd changes his plan of revenge, as he now seeks to kill as many people as he can, to satisfy his craving for revenge. Todd is helped by Mrs Lovett, who of course has an ulterior motive – as she is using the slaughtered corpses as meat for her pies. Out of all the main characters, only Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett had white face painting, with black, sunken eyes, which added more eeriness to their particular characters. Todd’s main goal is to convince the judge to get his beard shaven… which will of course lead to his death.

(Sorry I’m not going to give away the dramatic ending!)

There was also the comical play on words, where Sweeney Todd would tell his potential customers that he will give them the “closest shave you ever had” – meaning of course he would slit their throats. It was amazing how these young actors showed such great talent in acting as well as singing. Also, there was only one set on the stage, and very little props were used, but they somehow made it work, and really transported us into the world of Sweeney Todd.

After the show was over, the Yuppie spoke to Matthew Ben Attard, who played Sweeney Todd, and Kyra Lautier, who played Sweeney’s wife Lucy, as well as being part of the chorus.

Why did you want to be involved in this production?

Kyra: It’s one of the best pieces of our time, it would be a disgrace if I didn’t participate in it! When it comes to musical theatre I want to take part, and even though I was part of the chorus, it was such a big responsibility. I’m just happy I got to be part of this amazing production, with such awesome cast members.

Matthew: Well it was right after the pantomime when I got the call, at first I was quite reluctant in doing it as I was quite tired, but then since they said ‘You’d be quite good as a Sweeney Todd role’, I said I might as well risk it and take it, I mean it’ll be my biggest part ever!

What was the biggest challenge about taking on your particular role?

Kyra: As a chorus member I had to do multiple roles, and I think the most difficult one had to be either Lucy, because she is one of the most developed characters in the show, or else one of the asylum people, because we had to create our own backstories as to how we ended up like this, how we do certain gestures and why, and how we’re supposed to interact with other people.

Matthew: Sweeney Todd is not exactly normal, he’s a psychopath, he’s crazy, and he’s got different mindsets going through his mind. He wants to kill the judge, he wants to get back Joanna, he wants to see Lucy. The hardest thing about that role was actually getting into the mindset of Sweeney Todd. I’ve never taken on a role quite as big as him, and usually my roles revolve around comedy, not around dark, serious characters, so it took me awhile to get the mindset for it. At first it was full of movement, bending up and down, but then my director, Stephen Oliver – bless him, he’s a fantastic director – taught me the art of ‘less is more’. I wouldn’t move as much unless I absolutely lose it, like in ‘Epiphany’, which was a song where I absolutely lost it, and went all out. So that was the hardest thing of being Sweeney Todd, getting in the role and the songs. I am not a born singer so it took me awhile to get on the songs and really sing them properly.

Which was your favourite scene?

Kyra: My favourite scene of the entire show will have to be ‘Epiphany’ by far, as that is the turning point in the entire show, that is when Sweeney definitely has a developed motive and his character progresses the most, and I think the fact that they made that the finale number of the first act was such a great move.

Matthew: It has to be ‘Epiphany,’ which is the part where I lose my mind; I’m changing my insights left, right and centre, I’m thinking of Joanna so my facial expression changes, next thing I’m thinking about the judge and how I’m going to kill him, so my facial expression changes again. I’m raging, I’m angry – that was the most energetic scene I think Sweeney delivered.

Who was your favourite character (apart from yourself) and why?

Kyra: Mrs Lovett, as she is not just a chatterbox but a glittering, sparkling one, and it really does show, especially through Raquel Theuma’s performance. She kind of acts as a comic relief throughout the entire show, but even in that way, all of her motives are really sinister, as she was the one who came up with the idea of turning his victims into meat pies. She is definitely one of the best characters, as every time she is on stage she has to show that energy, not just through her songs and choreography, but also through the actor herself.

Matthew: It has to be Beadle. Beadle is just so manipulative – he will get into the mindset of anyone. He got into the mind of the judge, who was the one that convinced the judge to marry Joanna, and just his general expression as an actor, now I’m referring to Brendon Thearle – is an absolutely brilliant actor, as he creeps people out as a person, and he really brought it out through the Beadle – no offence to him, he’s one of my best friends, and without him I wouldn’t even be in this production to be honest!

If you were to be directing what is one thing you would have done differently?

Kyra: That’s quite difficult… especially since this is the first time Malta ever had a production of Sweeney Todd. I think the only thing that I would have changed, although I understand the reason why, is to not count out some of the songs as well as a few lines, because of the time restriction. For instance in the original, the last song of the first act, which is ‘Little Priest’ was cut out, and that is where Mrs Lovett explains to Sweeney her plan of turning people into pies.

Matthew: I would go along the lines of Kyra, as there was a lack of time in the rehearsal process, 2 songs were cut out, called ‘By the sea’ and ‘Little Priest.’ I think ‘Little Priest’ was a key moment of the show, and I really feel we could have done with the song, but unfortunately it was cut. What I would have changed was the communication between us as a cast and the directors, I would have just added more rehearsal time, because other than that I think the production really played out well. I also think that we had some really good volunteers to step out of the actual production and step into the stage managing sector, and I can thank that to Lisa Baldacchino and Nicole Sciberras.

Big thanks to Kyra and Matthew for speaking to us, and congratulations to the whole cast for an excellent show!

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Gabrielle Grixti

17 year old aspiring to become a surgeon who loves playing the piano and painting.
I feel that I can properly express myself through my writing, and that it's a great way to make myself heard, so that I too can someday make a difference in this complicated world.

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