Meat pies, murder and a musical challenge with Sweeney Todd

Death in the barber’s chair, bodies made into bestselling pies…nobody ever said Sweeney Todd was a show for the faint hearted.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

But as Easy Street Theatre Company prepare to bring Stephen Sondheim’s celebrated slice of Gothic mystery to Sheffield Cathedral, musical director Gareth Lloyd admits that the story is as challenging musically as it is dramatically.

“Sondheim is always difficult, it’s really a very complex world musically,” he explains.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“He grew up learning such fantastic music, he worked with people like Bernstein, he created very complicated sounds and Sweeney Todd is one of the most complicated of all.

Easy Street Musical Director Gareth LloydEasy Street Musical Director Gareth Lloyd
Easy Street Musical Director Gareth Lloyd

“He likes to use a lot of dissonance, a lot of clashing sounds to underpin the darkness of the story.

“There are so many dark moments in this story - and I don’t just mean the murders and the pies!”

It’s a very different musical world to last year’s Easy Street cathedral production of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s much-loved Phantom of the Opera.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Phantom of the Opera is difficult in the way it has to be sung and we had to encourage our cast to make a more mature classical sound, though they are show tunes and it is a gorgeous piece to listen to.

“Sweeney Todd has moments of beauty too but it is far more sophisticated than Phantom of the Opera and some of it is extremely challenging for any cast.

“Sondheim could write beautiful melodies when he wanted to but he also wanted to present the darker side of the story and he painted that darkness with his orchestrations.”

It is that level of complexity, though, that both Gareth and the Easy Street company are enjoying bringing to life.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“There’s a real moment of heartbreak at the end when you are torn because you have to ask yourself if you really feel sorry for this person who has spend two hours killing people,” Gareth says.

“That’s the genius of Sweeney Todd, the way that even a moment of horror can become moving.”

As with last year’s Phantom, Sweeney Todd will once again feature a full orchestra - a team of 25 musicians supporting a cast of more than 30 young performers.

“Many of our musicians will be professional but there will be some student musicians too,” Gareth says.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“What I can say even at this stage, with a while to go before opening night, is that when the show is good it is very good, very exciting and the cast really are working their socks off to get it right.

“And now they’re beginning the humour in it - and that really does make a difference.”

The Easy Street Theatre Companyt production of Sweeney Todd is at Sheffield Cathedral from May 1 to 4.