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Visit the cut-throat streets of Victorian London

Gemma Varnom and David Artus star in Sweeney Todd

By Mike Wade   |   Entertainment reporter

After last week’s unfortunate last-minute postponement, the latest musical to hit the Manx stage opens this weekend.

The Manx Operatic Society will finally unveil its latest production, ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ at the Gaiety Theatre on Saturday, March 12.

Starring David Artus and Gemma Varnom, as the murderous barber and his partner in crime Mrs Lovett, the production is based around the songs of the classic musical by Stephen Sondheim, made famous in various stage adaptations and the 2007 feature film, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter.

Cast out of London by the villainous Judge Turpin, Sweeney Todd returns and plots his revenge against those who have wronged him, dispatching his victims with a deft flick of his razor.

Mrs Lovett takes the bodies and turns them into pies, firing them in her huge, monstrous oven.
Also starring are Alex Toohey as Judge Turpin, Alex Maxwell as Sweeney’s friend, Anthony Hope, Hannah Clinton as Sweeney’s long-lost daughter Johanna and Marie Quinn as the mad beggar woman.

The large production also features Neil Callin, David Saunders, Mike Devereau, Cory Corkill and Nick Saunders among the 39-strong cast, backed by an impressive and dynamic stage set.
‘It is an amazing set, one of the best I think I’ve seen at the Gaiety,’ said Gavin Kerruish from the Manx Operatic Society.

‘We have had to think very creatively on how to make everything work on the stage, and I’m especially excited to see the way the designers have created the barbers chair, where Sweeney dispatched his victims.

‘The bodies have to fly down a chute and end up in the cellar, where Mrs Lovett turns them into pies. It took a bit of work, but our set designers have done a great job.’

Although the story does sound a little on the gory side for a musical, director John Cumbridge and the producers of the Manx Operatic Society have created a show that draws on the humour of the show as well as the horror.

‘The last time the Manx Operatic Society put on Sweeney Todd, it was actually pretty gory, which I think put a lot of people off going, so this time we have decided to make it a little less gory and horrific,’ said Gavin.

‘There are a lot of elements to the story of Sweeney Todd, with a lot more lighthearted, comedy or even slapstick moments that you wouldn’t necessarily think were there, and we have made sure that we have got as much in there as possible.

‘But, of course, there has to be a little bit of gore there somewhere.
‘The musical is based on the classic songs written by Steven Sondheim, and he always wanted to bring out the fun of any story in his songs. In particular, the song Priest has some very funny moments in there.
‘The cast have done a superb job and, in particular, our two stars, Gemma and David, are terrific.
‘Gemma has such an amazing voice and David has put his soul into this. If you ask me, I think David is a far better singer than Johnny Depp!’

The well-publicised week’s delay in opening meant that the society were forced to push back rehearsals and preparation times, and also scale back the amount of shows they will perform.

‘Well, we were forced into making a few changes at the last minute to our schedule, which was very unfortunate, but we are ready and raring to go now.

‘The great thing is that so many people from some of the other theatre groups on the island have rallied around and supported us.’

Sweeney Todd runs until Friday, March 18, with shows at 7.30pm, although there are now no shows on Sunday or Wednesday.

Tickets are £priced from £23 for adults and £20 for seniors and under 16s, available from the Welcome Centre and the Villa Gaiety box office, on 600555, and online from villagaiety.com


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