Broadway veteran Lea Salonga shines in Sweeney Todd musical

Her character of Mrs Lovett gives an edge to The Demon Barber of Fleet Street that explores themes of vengeance, murder and dark humour

Broadway veteran Lea Salonga plays the role of Mrs Lovett in the musical.
Broadway veteran Lea Salonga plays the role of Mrs Lovett in the musical. PHOTOS: ATLANTIS THEATRICAL

Brace yourself for an extraordinary musical at the Marina Bay Sands that delves into the gruesome plot of pie shop owner Mrs Lovett — played by theatre actress and singer Lea Salonga — baking and selling pies filled with unsuspecting victims.

Titled Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the spine-chilling musical is the story of a vengeful man named Benjamin Barker who was exiled to Australia after a corrupted judge lusted after his wife and framed him for a crime he did not commit.

Upon returning to London 15 years later, he changed his name to Sweeney Todd and met Mrs Lovett, whose obsession with him led her to help him open a barbershop near her pie shop.

Together, they hatched a ploy to have Sweeney murder his customers for Mrs Lovett to turn these victims into pie filling.

After its debut in the Philippines, the musical will make its next stop to Singapore from Nov 28 to Dec 8. It has an Advisory 16 rating with content more suited for persons 16 years and above. 

Barber Sweeney Todd murdered his customers and Mrs Lovett turned these victims into pie filling.

Although the original Sweeney Todd musical was set to be in the 1800s in London, this iteration presents a fresh, modern spin where the story takes place in an abandoned hospital’s asylum which is now filled with abandoned cars.

A vehicle on the set had its front hood become the counter for Mrs Lovett's pie shop, while its pick-up bed houses Sweeney’s barbershop.

Ms Salonga, famed for her powerful vocals and perfect pitch, won a Tony Award at aged 20 in 1991 for her lead role of Kim in Miss Saigon in London’s West End and New York City’s Broadway.

She also played Éponine for the first time in the Broadway production of Les Misérables in 1993, and reprised the role at London's Royal Albert Hall in a 10th anniversary production named Les Misérables: The Dream Cast in Concert.

Dark but fun

So the character of Mrs Lovett is worlds apart from the protagonist types that Ms Salonga has played in the past. It is, in fact, her darkest one.

Despite being sinister and evil for coming up with the idea of filling her pies with human flesh, there is comedy in her madness. She also has a knack of keeping the audience curious and intrigued about what else is up her sleeve.

Lea Salonga and Jett Pangan star as Mrs Lovett and Sweeney Todd in the musical. 

“If you are a Sondheim fan, or a Lea Salonga fan, you will love this production! It is the best performance I have seen Lea give in 25 years. She is sensational”, says Mr Gaurav Kripalani who is the artistic director of Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT).

Mr Kripalani adds: “Sweeney Todd is one of the cleverest musicals ever written. Sondheim’s music is pure genius. I was amazed to find out it had never been staged in Singapore. SRT is delighted to be working with our friends at Atlantis to bring this production to Singapore.”

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the musical written and composed by legendary American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, whose accolades include an Academy Award, eight Grammy Awards, eight Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and a Laurence Olivier Award.

“The music is challenging and I’ve often headed home and just found myself sitting down once I get home just staring into space, my brain it’s going nonstop and trying to process all of the information.

“It’s so fulfilling and gratifying once you see how everything comes together and how everything fits,” Ms Salonga says.  

The musical also stars Filipino rocker Jett Pangan as Sweeney Todd. Mr Pangan is the lead vocalist of rock band The Dawn.

And what will become of Sweeney and Mrs Lovett in the end? Don’t miss this musical as the thrilling scenes play out before you.