Ben Mingay slaughtering with Sondheim in WA Opera’s Sweeney Todd

Ben Mingay. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d494077
Ben Mingay. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d494077

BEN Mingay might be swearing off meat pies for awhile following his role as Benjamin Barker, aka Sweeney Todd, in WA Opera’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

The actor and singer, who studied opera voice at Sydney Conservatorium of Music, knew little of the Stephen Sondheim production when director Stuart Maunder approached Mingay with the role.

“He said ‘I think this is something that would be perfect for you’,” Mingay said.

“I think he’d seen me in Oklahoma! playing Jud Fry, which was a dark character and maybe saw a little something in there.

“When he approached me about it, I’d never heard the music at all. I was familiar with other Sondheim stuff but not Sweeney Todd.

“So I went in to research mode and the more I listened and looked and researched, the more I enjoyed it. And now I’m in love with it.”

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Ben Mingay. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d494077

The storyline follows Benjamin Barker who once had it all, but following a brutal betrayal he assumes the new identity of Sweeney Todd and plots revenge with deranged pie-maker Mrs Lovett.

Sung in English, the WA Opera production also stars Antoinette Halloran as Mrs Lovett and James Clayton as Todd’s nemesis Judge Turpin.

“It’s definitely dark but it’s also a tragic hero kind of story,” Mingay said.

“Sondheim has recreated the story of Sweeney Todd, putting it to music and converting him into a tragic hero.

“He has all of these dark qualities about him but he also has redeeming qualities and you can kind of sympathise with him as a character because of what’s happened to him.

“Everybody loves a comeback story; his is just quite dire.”

Ben Mingay. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d494077

Making his WA Opera debut, Mingay said they had spent a lot of rehearsal time exploring the relationship between Mrs Lovett and Sweeney, which could sometimes get overlooked.

“She really is a master manipulator and happens to realise a way that she can get Sweeney Todd, or Benjamin Barker, in her life,” Mingay said.

“Of course, he needs Mrs Lovett to get where he needs to go too. They kind of have this co-dependency which is really quite interesting.

“I think Sweeney Todd is one of those ones where the more you look into it, the more you can find.”

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Ben Mingay. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d494077

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Where: His Majesty’s Theatre

When: July 13, 16, 18 and 20

Tickets: www.waopera.asn.au