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Review of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I like the story of Sweeney Todd, the particularly morbid, horrific tale appeals to me (need counselling), and Stephen Sondheim's musical version is a particularly clever and fun (yes fun as we slit them throats) version of the tale.

This particular version was performed by the talented bunch of youngsters that makes up the Royal & Derngate Youth Theatre under the guidance of director Christopher Gorry, whose work I had seen previously in Honk Jnr a few weeks before. Once again he had crafted magic from these skilled young performers.

The ensemble welcomed us to the show with a stirring (and loud) rendition of The Ballad Of Sweeney Todd, after which Sweeney made his appearance in the guise of Brett Mason. From the outset Mason captured the character with aplomb and portrayed the tortured soul of both the loss of his wife and his freedom through to his demonic collapse. Also introduced with the song No Place Like London was Michael Ryan as Anthony. Ryan for me was one of the stronger voices in the play and was affecting in his portrayal of the love struck character. The third character was the rather Beggar Woman, a fruity performance from Bethaney Coulson. Delivering some of her saucy lines ("Then how would ya like to split me muff?") with glorious relish.

The Worst Pies In London then introduced us to the undoubted star of the show for me. Amara Browning's Mrs Lovett was just simply superb. Oozing confidence on stage and a simply hilarious performance she stole every scene she appeared in and I genuinely awaited her return whenever she wasn't on stage. I honestly rarely gush quite so much, but if young Miss Browning isn't a star of the future, I shall eat Pirelli's hat.

Of the other cast members, well worth a mention was Ryan McLean as The Beadle, a very strong singing performance with the rendition of Sweet Polly Plunkett a highlight of the show.

Under the guidance of musical director Fergal O'Mahony the orchestra was also magnificent and sitting in the second row, I not only heard them well, I could clearly see the effort going into the performance. Special mention here has to go to Joley Cragg on percussion who confidently coped with playing multiple instruments and dealing with having to move her music from stand to stand!

Finally I must mention the blood. I wanted more! However the slitting of the throats got a deserved gasp from the people around me, particularly the first one and the demise of the final gentlemen.

Overall the whole production was a delight, from the clever set, the superb musicians and a superb cast. It was also a delight to sit in a sold out Royal for a so called "smaller" show. I hope to be able to get a late ticket for tonight's performance to watch this super show again.

Performance viewed: Friday 11th July 2014 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

Details at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whatson/2014-2015/Royal/SweeneyTodd

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