New theatres seem to be opening at a rate of knots. Recent times have seen the St James at Victoria, The Park in Finsbury Park and now the Twickenham Theatre which opened this week with Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Playing the title role is David Bedella, who’s no stranger to Sondheim, with past credits including Wilson Mizner in Road Show (Menier Chocolate Factory) and Man 1 in this year’s acclaimed production of Putting It Together at the St James Theatre.
Now a new challenge awaits, as DAVID BEDELLA explains to Musical Theatre Review’s Michael Darvell.
It’s an intimate space and you are playing Sweeney Todd with just a cast of nine. Will that be enough to create the right atmosphere for this dark tale of revenge? How will you manage the chorus which is such a vital and scary part of the action?
We have employed the use of the classic Greek chorus so you’re presented with nine actors at the beginning of the show who create the world of Sweeney Todd. It works beautifully.
How has director Derek Anderson approached the piece with a limited number of players and will there be a band, or will it be just a piano reduction of the score?
We all get used to full capacity and there’s a lovely chamber orchestra of four. It sounds as though it was written specifically for them.
You have worked before with co-star Sarah Ingram (Mrs Lovett) on Sondheim’s Road Show at the Menier. Does that make it easier for the two of you?
Oh my goodness, yes. Sarah and I, even in our last production, were able to have conversations with no words. We always know what the other is thinking and it’s been such a joy to play together again.
Sweeney Todd needs a great deal of concentration on keeping to the character of Todd as the villain, even though he is technically also the hero. Is this a problem?
It is certainly a delicate balance… but with the help of Derek Anderson I think we’ve got a close eye on Sweeney’s journey. It feels right to me.
You are well used to working with material by Sondheim, but his music is not the easiest to get right. Do you enjoy a special thrill singing his scores rather than, say, those of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Gilbert and Sullivan, Kander and Ebb or Richard O’Brien, all of whom you have performed in the past?
I’m sure your readers will understand that each of these composers brings a different challenge. There was certainly nothing easy about singing Rocky Horror eight shows a week and it was in some ways equally fulfilling.
Your CV contains a very eclectic list of shows such as Jerry Springer the Opera, Hedwig & The Angry Inch, Jesus Christ Superstar, Chicago, The Rocky Horror Show, Chess and Torch Song Trilogy. Do you ever long to be in something more traditional by, say, the Gershwins, Berlin, Porter or Rodgers & Hammerstein, or even just a straight play?
I can honestly say no. The diversity of the roles of I’ve played and the extremity of their characters has made the journey so exciting. I will tell you after my experience in Torch Song Trilogy I truly enjoy doing straight plays.
Were you taken aback by the success of Jerry Springer and the furore it caused and were you surprised to get a hat-trick of awards for playing both Satan and the warm-up man?
I think we were all surprised at the success of Jerry. It started out as an interesting idea – we were taken to the Edinburgh Festival and ended up at the National Theatre sweeping the Oliviers! I felt so honoured by all of the awards and to this day am grateful to that show. It has become my calling card.
Is it more exciting to be in a brand-new show, like Jerry Springer or Soho Cinders, where you have no preconceptions about a role or any previous productions?
Whenever I approach a character the goal is always to make it my own and bring different elements of myself to the fore, so in a sense the job remains the same.
In your career you have mixed the stage work with television (Holby City, By All Means, Inside No. 9 etc) and voiceover work (Thomas and Friends). Do you have a preference or are you only happy when singing in a musical?
They’re all so different. I have loved my film and television experiences, working with people like Oliver Stone and Chris Nolan were exceptional experiences but, there can be no denying after 30 years in the business, I do feel most at home on stage.
Do you intend to do more cabaret work as you did at the St James Theatre recently? Would you relish a season at, say, the Crazy Coqs?
Yes indeed. My show David Bedella and Friends is a monthly event at the St James Theatre and I have spent many a night at Crazy Coqs and have loved it. Ruth [Leon, the artistic director at Crazy Coqs] has invited me more than once to play there and I’m sure before long I will.
What is on the horizon for you next, following on from Sweeney Todd?
I’ve got some television work in October, and then it’s off to panto where I will be playing my first Captain Hook in First Family Entertainment’s Peter Pan at the Milton Keynes Theatre. Please come see us!
* Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street began previews on 10 September and runs to 4 October (press night is 16 September).