Sunday, October 9

Michael Ball on Sweeney Todd

Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd with Michael Ball playing the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Imelda Staunton as pie-making Mrs Lovett has been playing to packed houses and received rave reviews at Chichester Festival Theatre with Andrew Lloyd Webber commenting  “this is the best Sweeney I have ever seen” according to Peter Polycarpou who plays he Beadle.

A West End transfer must surely be on the cards early next year with Cameron Mackintosh rumoured to have interested in being involved.

Stephen Sondheim has been suffering from back problems and I believe is due to fly to the UK to see the production as soon as he can.  Hopefully he will give it the final seal of approval.

In an interview with Michael Ball in the Daily Express he said: “I first had the idea of doing it three years ago and mooted it, but what is exciting and unnerving is the speed with which it has come together I couldn't be more proud and thrilled. It's just been a joy to do from beginning to end. It’s the King Lear of musical theatre, which is why I wanted to do it.

On the back of Hairspray it has taken me to both ends of the extreme, having to change myself in every way. Hairspray gave me the courage to do this. The fact that I was able to immerse myself in that and be convincing was brilliant. It was a gag there that no one recognised me but here at Chichester we are genuinely getting complaints every day that I’m not appearing! I don’t think there can be a greater compliment for an actor.

I wanted to change myself physically and I went through a lot of different ideas. I thought of a shaven headed look at one time. I have dimples and curly hair, which is not your typical Sweeney Todd but I wanted to give him a sharpness and an edge. I grew a goatee beard and I wear a hairpiece so that he has straight hair which he can flick to hide his face. I’m a big guy and wanted Todd to move very quickly and suddenly but most of the time be totally contained and closed in. He’s simmering under the surface. He doesn’t show his emotions until he has his breakdown.

I’ve never sung better in my life. I have a high baritone voice but I’ve awakened this bass baritone and can flip into the higher one when I need to. This score requires the biggest vocal range I have ever had to use behind the scenes here.

Doing the show was my idea and I got it going. It happened three years ago on my BBC Radio 2 Sunday Brunch show. Imelda Staunton came on and in between records I asked her if she fancied playing Mrs Lovett and she said “All right then” but it has taken all of this time for us to get together. There was never anybody else considered or wanted.”

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