On the 31st of November and the 2nd & 3rd of December, an auditorium of expectant people watched as vast red curtains revealed 20 students perform their opening act of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Sweeney Todd’. Over the span of 10 weeks, students and teachers alike have undertaken the arduous task of bringing Sondheim’s music and characters to life, whilst also acclimatizing themselves to an amazing set, complete with a barber’s chair that has the ability to send hapless victims into the chop house!

This unsettling Victorian production tells the story of Sweeney Todd, a barber-turned-convict, who returns to London, with intent to get revenge on Judge Turpin, the man who wrongly imprisoned him, and stole his wife, Lucy. ‘The Demon Barbers’ old address is now a meat pie shop run by Mrs. Lovett, a soon-to-be accomplice to the murders, who admits to making the worst meat pies in London. She tells Todd that Lucy poisoned herself after being raped by Turpin, and that Johanna, Sweeney and Lucy’s daughter, is now Turpin's ward. Johanna and a young honorable sailor named Anthony Hope fall in love; however, similar to his feelings for Lucy, Turpin lusts after Johanna and wants to marry her, and thus does whatever he deems necessary to get rid of Anthony. As the chaos progresses, Todd's killings become directed towards all that have wronged him.

Director of Music, Mr. Bartlett, described Sweeney Todd as ‘The most technically perfect musical that has ever been written. The integration between the music, words, and story is so well crafted.’ However, the seemingly effortless performance the students achieved was the result of hours of rehearsals, and of course, talent. Accompanying the actors was an orchestra comprised of teachers and two students, who, hidden beneath the stage, provided continuous accompaniment to the scenes above. In addition, eleven students stepped up as stage managers, light board operators, and sound crew, who, naturally, are responsible for creating an unsettling environment to assist the performance, and look after the set. It was explained by Mr. Bartlett that much of the set is provided from the external company: ‘Scenery Solutions.’ However, the ‘overall vision comes from Ms. Wylie’s brain, in collaboration with the theatres technical manager, who is essentially the engineer to her architect.’           

When talking to some of the students involved in the production, there was a recurring theme that they loved the strange characters and dark humor Sondheim brought to the table. For instance, when talking to a year 11 student, she described her role as The Beggar Woman ‘really exciting, as she is absolutely mental, so I can really let loose and have fun! I’m really enjoying the gory parts, especially my own death!’ Despite the ‘murdering’ of their peers, it was clear that the cast had made friendships that would last a lifetime as they all took their final bow, and I look forward to seeing what the drama department has planned for the future.