Review: Sweeney Todd at Brookfield Community School, Chesterfield

Brookfield School's production of Sweeney Todd
Brookfield School's production of Sweeney Todd

Students are giving a masterclass in musical theatre with an outstanding production of an ambitious work.

Nearly 70 performers are airing their talents in Sweeney Todd which is running in Chesterfield this week.

This sharp and slick piece of theatre, which has a demanding musical score, is played out at Brookfield Community School where the large stage housing an eye-catching set gives the show its visual wow factor.

Standing on several levels, the ensemble spreads out across the full width of the stage to sing numbers generating enough power to raise the roof.

The set is a work of art , dominated by a two-storey structure featuring a pie shop on the ground floor, complete with glowing oven and mincing machine and a minimalist barber’s shop on the top deck.

At either side of the stage are two balconies which provide the perfect platforms from which soloists project their songs.

The Victorian era is well portrayed in the sombres browns and greys worn by the impoverished residents scurrying around the streets of London. The bleak costumes of the less well-off are contrasted by the rich jewel colours of those on whom fortune has smiled, such as the Italian barber Pirelli (played in flamboyant style by Fran Fleming) and the comical Beadle Bamford (a delightful portrayal by Ben Whiteside).

Edward Jowle is simply knockout as the demon barber Sweeney Todd, carving out a first-class performance in his last stage role for the school before leaving to further his singing at a top conservatoire. He takes the difficult musical score in his stride and turns it into an aural, emotional masterpiece which hooks its listeners in and keeps them hanging on every word and every note.

His leading lady Emily Germon gives an impressive portrayal of Mrs Lovett, maker of the worst pies in London, who aids Sweeney in his gory quest for revenge. Hers is character acting at its finest, comical, as chirpy as a Cockney sparrow and totally convincing. She has an amazing vocal range and confidently carries off every tricky song this creation throws at her.

Great performances too come from Domininic Stevenson as lovelorn sailor Anthony Hope, Ellie Ward as The Beggar Woman, Edward Telfer as Judge Turpin, Jessica Sharratt as the barber’s daughter Johanna, Jemma Franklin as lovable assistant Toby Ragg and Sean Fagan as the asylum governor Jonas Fogg.

Sweeney Todd, directed by Phil Gascoyne with musical direction by Steve Mitchell, is running at Brookfield school until Saturday, March 8.