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02/04/2012 11:46 BST | Updated 01/06/2012 06:12 BST

Sweeney Todd on the West End: Review

Although I am reliably told it is a 'classic', before I saw the new West End revival, the only things I knew about Sweeney Todd were the two words 'Sweeney' and 'Todd'. I was the proverbial blank canvas going into the performance - I didn't know what to expect, what the story was, what the music was like: nothing.

Photograph: Tristram Kenton

Although I am reliably told it is a 'classic', before I saw the new West End revival, the only things I knew about Sweeney Todd were the two words 'Sweeney' and 'Todd'. I was the proverbial blank canvas going into the performance - I didn't know what to expect, what the story was, what the music was like: nothing. All that kept going round and round in my head was 'Oh I like Imelda Staunton, I bet she'll be good'.

For those who are equally in the dark, Sweeney Todd (The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) essentially boils down to this; barber, is wrongly imprisoned, comes back, told his wife is dead and his daughter has been adopted by a rather incestuously horny judge, wants revenge, kills someone, likes it, decides to kill the judge, can't yet, keeps killing people to keep himself going, likes it, his pie shop running landlady who is in love with him starts to use the corpse meat in her pies, people like it, he manages to kill the judge. Now that is rate condensed and I've missed out a lot of the detail, but essentially the musical is brilliantly grim with highest throat-slashing to song ratio on the West End.

Photograph: Tristram Kenton

Imelda Staunton by far steals the show with the quaintly canabalistic pie-making Mrs.Lovett. Although Michael Ball is indeed very good, the fact that it is Michael Ball off of the telly somewhat undermines what should be a chilling performance. However, his performance is excellent during his big number's it just drops off slightly in-between. Staunton, however, maintains throughout her pitch perfect performance having the entire audience in stitches of laugher and fits of tears. The music is, at points, verging on the abstract, but once you are onboard with it, it seems to unlock itself. In fact the music and it's performance are part of the show's most intriguing facets. Being a musical about murder, the score is dark, brooding and infectious, whilst at times also being beautiful and luxurious. The music and the lyrics are, however, very dense and require the utmost attention from you, the audience, if you are to fully 'get' what is going on. Although at times a hindrance, due diligence does pay off.

Sweeney Todd is at the Adelphi Theatre on the Strand, London, until the 22nd September. For more information go to www.sweeneytoddwestend.com