Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd is a powerful antidote to the saccharine productions of Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh which usually pervade the West End.
In a risky yet inspired move, director Jonathon Kent has taken the cuddly musical star Michael Ball and cast him - unrecognisably - as a greasy-haired, blood- soaked Sweeney Todd.
Ball's Sweeney towers over the diminutive Imelda Staunton who turns in a wonderful performance as a cheery and ruthless Mrs Lovett.
She presides over a giant furnace in the basement where the slaughtered customers are turned into meat pies for the consumption of her customers above in the pie shop.
Restaged from its original 19th-century London to an industrial 1930s the production's location at the Adelphi Theatre in the Strand heightens the sense of realism
This dark tale of lost innocence and bloody revenge takes place in a capital which Sweeney describes as "a hole in the world like a great black pit/At the top of the hole/Sit the privileged few/Making mock of the vermin/In the lower zoo/Turning beauty into filth and greed." Given such a world, Sweeney reasons that he is only repaying mankind for the miseries it has inflicted upon him.
Mrs Lovett's meat pies and giant furnace are symbolic of the dog-eat-dog philosophy that pervades a mechanistic, materialistic society, reinforced by music which is frenetic, jarring and which leaps back and forth between phrases as Sweeney's mind begins to crack.
Sondheim wrote both lyrics and music and the latter soars under the musical direction of Nicholas Skilbeck and Paul Groothuis's sound design.
There is excellent acting support from John Bowe as the corrupt Judge who has lusted, raped and ruined Johanna, Sweeney's lost love (Gillian Kirkpatrick).
Now an unrecognisable beggar woman, she haunts the play as a reminder of our tendency to dismiss and deny the humanity of others before Sweeney finally mistakenly kills her.
This dystopian allegory is music theatre at its very best and it is a rare chance to see something so challengingly different, not least because of some pointed lyrics.
As Sweeney cries out to Mrs Lovett: "There are only two kinds of men ... There's the one staying put in his proper place/And the one with his foot in the other one's face."
Runs until September 22. Box office: (020) 7492-9930.