Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson in Sweeney Todd at the ENO
The orchestra was on stage and initially the soloists were lined up with music stands and scores - with a grand piano in front of the conductor - strange, I thought, I don't recall a prominent piano part in the score. However half way through the opening number Terfel very deliberately drops his score, then all the others do, throw down the music stands, and the performers grab the piano, turn it upside down, drop it (clang!) and remove the legs so that henceforth it becomes a mini-stage. The conductor's coat is ripped, revolutionary" slogans (eg "we are not a loan") are displayed, and henceforth the whole orchestral area and some of the auditorium becomes the set.
This might have been mere gimmickry but the cast was truly outstanding. Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson really sparked off each other - they had done this in NY which probably helped and although one of them is a Singer and one an Actor the Singer acted remarkably well and the Actor sang well also as well as acting superbly. Everyone was miked of course. When I asked the head of the sound desk how many dBs Emma was up vs Bryn he just smiled and said it was challenging - though they were rising to the challenge very well.
The orchestra was on fire and the supporting cast were very good - particularly Philip Quast playing the odious Judge Turpin - it seems that Quast has won 3 Olivier Awards for his performances in musicals - and Katie Hall playing Joanna the daughter.
The audience loved it and gave a richly rewarded standing ovation. And then Emma T pointed to a man in the 5th row of the stalls and it was indeed Sondhiem himself (he's now 85!) who didn't come on stage alas but was roundly applauded and rightly so.