THE two leads in this fabulous musical certainly come up with a business plan with a difference and as distasteful as it is, the audience can't help laughing, albeit uncomfortably at times.
It's impossible not to have a giggle, to be seduced by the show's jet black humour. How sad then, that a production of this quality played to a half empty theatre on Monday night. Frustrating for all concerned, particularly for former executive producer Paul Kerrryson who makes a welcome return to direct with distinction Sondheim's macabre masterpiece. They should re-christen Kerryson Mr Musicals, for it's a theatrical genre in which he consistently excels.
Musicals live or die by their leads and in Wayne Holt and Laura Chandler, who play Todd and pie shop owner Mrs Loveitt respectively, the Garrick have a dream duo. Wayne gives the audience the creeps even when exchanging pleasantries with his customers and the "demon barber" is a truly imposing and intimidating figure. The scene I particularly enjoyed is the one in which Mrs L tries to bring out the romantic in the vengeful Todd. Holt and Chandler play this to perfection and for me, this is Laura's finest hour on the Garrick stage. She's a real credit to her late dad Terry, whose acting gave me decades of pleasure at this particular playhouse.
If you aren't a convert, it may take time to warm to Sondheim's genius, as the music can be difficult, the lyrical wordplay intricate. Once converted, there's no going back and singers like Chris Wagstaff, who plays the lovesick Anthony, and Sara Grace Nelson, who plays the apple of his eye, Joanna, are sure to boost the legion of Sondheim fans. On stage they are mesmerising, and Sara Grace has a voice so pure it's sure to set many a bottom lip quivering. It did mine.
A major musical triumph, that simply must not be missed. Magnificent.
* Until October 15. The box office is on 0161 928 1677. Star rating - *****