Gina Riley & Anthony Warlow. Photo: Colin Page

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It’s 40 years since the demon barber of Fleet Street first sang his story on stage to the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim. However, the legend of Sweeney Todd dates back much further. An urban myth about a psychotic barber and the dubious contents of meat pies floated around London in the early 1800s and was first committed to print in a cheap weekly serial magazine called a penny dreadful in 1846. From then it has seen iterations as stories, plays, movies, and Sondheim’s musical which arguably most popularised the tale.

This 40th anniversary production brings together some of Australia’s musical elite with Anthony Warlow and Gina Riley in the lead roles, and also featuring Debra Byrne, Daniel Sumegi and Michael Falzon. 

“It’s a wonderful production and […] I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” says Falzon who plays Pirelli. 

“He’s pretty sinister in himself. Behind the flamboyance, there’s a dark side to him and he tries to use that against Sweeney,” Falzon says, describing his character. “There are some nice little ducks and weaves and sneaky tones in this plot.”

Falzon, who is a huge Sondheim fan, says this musical is one of the most technically challenging for a singer, and that Pirelli is one of the “great tenor roles.” And while the subject matter is quite gruesome “this particular version is quite funny. There’s tragedy, but there’s comic relief,” he explains. 

While the story itself may not have a strong message or modern-day relevance, Falzon says Sondheim is an intelligent, astute writer who always has something to say, no matter the decade. 

“It’s always entertaining, it’s always articulate theatre that’s accessible to broad audiences.”

Jun 13-16. Darling Harbour Theatre, 14 Darling Rd, Darling Harbour. $69.90-$224+b.f. Tickets & Info: https://lifelikecompany.com

 

By Rita Bratovich