Meet the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

JOHN HARVEY

Despite having won two Fleur du Cap Awards previously, South African theatre personality Jonathan Roxmouth is still “nervous” ahead of this year’s awards ceremony, taking place at the Baxter Theatre in March.

“I’m obviously very proud to have been nominated for my role as Tony in West Side Story, but I always get nervous around this time of year.

“It places the theatre community under a microscope for a while. Suddenly you’re competing against colleagues, which can be a little awkward. That being said, it’s a tremendous honour to be recognised,” he said.

For the time being, however, Roxmouth’s focus is on Pieter Toerien production of the Stephen Sondheim musical thriller Sweeney Todd, beginning its Cape Town run at Theatre on the Bay on Friday February 19.

The show received an overwhelming reception in Johannesburg, and Roxmouth said it was the first time in his career he had witnessed a call for an extension being made so quickly.

“We were originally set down for eight weeks, but we eventually ended up doing 10 and a half weeks. It was unbelievable. One of the most pleasing aspects was that it was such a mixed audience, comprising both older theatre-goers and young couples.

“Initially I had been a bit concerned about how the show would be received, but I think people really enjoyed its dark nature. I think it’s a bit like people slowing down to look at an accident. It’s shocking, but you just can’t look away.”

One of the most pleasing aspects, Roxmouth said, was the cohension that existed among all the people working on the production.

“It is such a legitimate team of professionals. I wish I could sell tickets to what goes on backstage as well. The set design and how it is pieced together is amazing.”

The show is is directed and designed by the award-winning KickstArt team of Steven Stead and Greg King.

Roxmouth plays alongside Charon Williams-Ross as Mrs Lovett, while the all-star cast also includes Michael Richard, Candice von Litsenborgh, Jaco van Rensburg, Anne Marie Clulow, Adam Pelkowitz, Luciano Zuppa, Wesley Swain Lauder, Germandt Geldenhuys, Cameron Botha, Pauline du Plessis, Sanli Jooste, Claire Simonis, Megan Rigby, Schoeman Smit and Earl Gregory. The musical director is Rowan Bakker.

Asked how he thought Cape Town audiences would receive his Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Rouxmouth said he always differentiated between how Johannesburg audiences and those in the Mother City consumed their theatre.

“Joburg comes to watch, Cape Town comes to listen. Sweeney is one of Sondheim’s most epic musical productions, so I think Cape Town’s audience will just be swallowed by what they hear and experience.”

One of the great hallmark’s of Roxmouth’s reputation as a performer is his relentless work ethic. While to most embarking on a project paying tribute to the life of American songwriter and composer Marvin Hamlisch while simultaneously playing one of the most challenging roles in theatre would be beyond the pale, the show, I’m Playing Your Song, also played to packed houses.

“We (Roxmouth and fellow performer Sharon Spiegel-Wagner) originally wrote it as a revue, but it ended up as a full two-person musical. We were thrilled with the response.”

* Tickets for Sweeney Todd are priced between R125 and R350 and are available at Computicket.