THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

 

When I heard about a Portuguese production of "Sweeney Todd" I didn't believe it would really happen. To begin with, it's unusual to see a musical produced over here. Also, Sondheim's lyrics aren't easy to translate and would probably loose a lot. Last but not least I wondered if there was a stage in Lisbon able to carry such a show. Even facing such problems, the show was produced and opened on October 18th 1997.

Holding my breath, I went to see it (after my first trip to Broadway). I was in for a surprise! The production not only worked, but it's also a very good one. Until then, for me, "Sweeney Todd" was just a great musical on CD (I wasn't able to get tickets to see it at London's National Theatre a few years ago) and one of my favorites Sondheim's scores. From now on, it's also a great stage show, a delicious dark musical.

This production is a gigantic step in the history of our theatre. Not only is one of the very few Broadway musicals that opened here, but one that looks like the real thing. Most important, it's the first time that a Portuguese audience had the pleasure of hearing a Sondheim score live, this show revealing this great composer over here.

The person responsible for the success of this production was director João Lourenço. Approaching it as an opera was a great (although not original) idea and he staged it as a dark, very dark, tale of murder and revenge. He was also responsible for the Portuguese adaptation, together with Vera San Payo de Lemos and José Fanha. Although a few changes were made, they respected Hugh Wheeler's book and kept the spirit of dark humor of Sondheim's lyrics.

The cast had great voices, although some of the members were better singers than actors. That's the case of Jorge Vaz de Carvalho who played Sweeney Todd. He had a strong voice and his Todd was sometimes scary (specially when he left the stage and sang menacing "Epiphany" to members of the audience, almost touching them with his razor), but when he wasn't singing his acting lost power. As Mrs. Lovett, Helena Afonso gave us a great and comic performance, turning the numbers "The Worst Pies in London", "A Little Priest" and "By the Sea" in the highlights of the evening. Another big moment was when Henrique Feist, as a perfect Tobias, delivered a powerful "Not While I'm Around".

 

with

JORGE VAZ DE CARVALHO      HELENA VIEIRA

PEDRO CHAVES    HENRIQUE FEIST

 

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Book by Hugh Wheeler

Portuguese version by

João Lourenço, Vera San Payo de Lemos and José Fanha

Directed by João Lourenço

Rated by Jorge: ++++