Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sweeney Todd
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Artwork from the original Broadway production
Music Stephen Sondheim
Lyrics Stephen Sondheim
Book Hugh Wheeler
Basis Christopher Bond's 1973 play
Productions 1979 Broadway
1980 West End
1980 U.S. Tour
1982 U.S. Tour
1982 Telecast of national tour
1984 Houston Grand Opera
1984 New York City Opera
1989 Broadway revival
1993 London South Bank
International productions
1998 Opera North, Leeds
2002 Lyric Opera of Chicago
2003 Royal Opera House, London
2004 West End revival
2004 New York City Opera revival
2005 Broadway revival
2007 U.S. Tour
2007 film
2008 London revival
2010 Argentina
2011 Chatelet Theatre Paris
2011 Chicester Festival Theatre West Sussex
2012 West End revival
Awards Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book
Tony Award for Best Original Score
Drama Desk Outstanding Musical
Drama Desk Outstanding Book
Drama Desk Outstanding Lyrics
Drama Desk Outstanding Music
Olivier Award for Best New Musical

Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a 1979 musical thriller with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and libretto by Hugh Wheeler. The musical is based on the 1973 play Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Christopher Bond.

Sweeney Todd opened on Broadway at the Uris Theatre on March 1, 1979 and ran for 557 performances.[1] It was directed by Harold Prince with musical staging by Larry Fuller. It starred Len Cariou as Sweeney Todd and Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett. The musical tells the story of Benjamin Barker, alias Sweeney Todd, who returns to London after 15 years' transportation on false charges. When he learns from his former landlady Mrs. Lovett that his wife poisoned herself after being raped by the judge who wrongly transported him (Judge Turpin by name), he vows revenge.



Act I

George Hearn as Sweeney Todd in the 1982 taping in the My Friends sequence.

The company—citizens of London—assembles to perform a no-frills burial, dumping a body in a sack into a shallow grave. The company sings "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd", introducing the tale of "Demon Barber of Fleet Street". They continue to appear throughout the show to comment on the action. Sweeney Todd rises from the grave as if called forth, telling the audience to "attend the tale of Sweeney Todd" as the actual play begins.

The year is 1846.[2] A young sailor named Anthony Hope rides a ship into London. Despite Hope's enthusiasm, his friend and shipmate Sweeney Todd is grim and uneasy. This mood is worsened by a half-mad Beggar Woman who begs from (then sexually solicits) both Anthony and Todd. She appears to recognize Todd, who runs her off. ("No Place Like London"). As they prepare to part, Todd tells Anthony a tragic story about a young and naïve barber, his beautiful wife, and the lustful judge who exiled him to covet her ("The Barber and His Wife").

Todd goes to a meat pie shop on Fleet Street, where he encounters the shop's proprietress, Mrs. Nellie Lovett. She complains about her competition, her own pitiful pies, and the difficult economic times ("Worst Pies in London"). When Todd asks about the upstairs apartment, she tells him the sad tale of the previous tenant, a barber named Benjamin Barker. Barker had been falsely sentenced by the lecherous Judge Turpin and his corrupt cohort Beadle Bamford because of the Judge's lust for Barker's wife Lucy. She reveals how, once Barker had been sent to Australia, the Judge had lured Lucy to his house and raped her ("Poor Thing"). Todd cries out in agony, desperately crying out, "Would no one have mercy on her?", confirming Mrs. Lovett's suspicions that he is Benjamin Barker, back from Australia. She tells him that his wife poisoned herself and that his infant daughter, Johanna, became a ward of the Judge. Todd swears revenge on the Judge who ruined his life. Mrs. Lovett is more concerned with how Todd will make a living, and shows Todd his collection of sterling silver razors, which she has kept hidden for years, telling him that he can become a barber again ("My Friends" and "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd: Lift Your Razor High, Sweeney!").

Mrs. Lovett (Angela Lansbury) and Sweeney Todd (Len Cariou) in the original 1979 Broadway production in the A Little Priest scene.

Anthony, walking through Kearny's Lane, notices a girl singing at a window admiring a bird seller's wares ("Green Finch and Linnet Bird"). The passing Beggar Woman (who again offers herself to him) tells Anthony that the girl is Johanna, Judge Turpin's ward. Anthony is immediately smitten ("Ah, Miss") and pledges to woo her, but the Judge and the Beadle threaten him off. He swears to rescue her ("Johanna"). Meanwhile, in the crowded marketplace, renowned "Italian" barber Adolfo Pirelli and his simple-minded assistant Tobias Ragg pitch a cure-all for hair loss ("Pirelli's Miracle Elixir"). Todd, after exposing the elixir as fraudulent, challenges Pirelli to a shaving and tooth-pulling competition, and invites the Beadle to act as the judge of the competition. Pirelli puts on a grand show, but Todd wins easily ("The Contest"). Todd invites the Beadle to visit his parlor for a complimentary shave ("The Ballad of Sweeney Todd: Sweeney Pondered and Sweeney Planned").

Several days later, as Todd impatiently waits for the Beadle's arrival, Mrs. Lovett urges patience ("Wait"), when Anthony bursts into the shop. He tells Todd of his sudden romance with Johanna and requests to bring the girl to the barber shop. No sooner has he left than Pirelli and Tobias visit the shop. Mrs. Lovett takes Toby downstairs for a meat pie, leaving Todd alone with Pirelli. Pirelli drops his Italian accent to reveal an Irish one and reveals his real name is Danny O'Higgins, who served as assistant to Benjamin Barker in his barber shop fifteen years ago. O'Higgins has recognized Todd and attempts to blackmail him. Rather than pay O'Higgins off, Todd attacks him and strangles him, dumping his body into an empty trunk just before Tobias enters looking for his master, saying that he has an appointment with a tailor. Todd sends Tobias back down to Mrs. Lovett, tempting him with the offer of another pie and "a nice big tot of gin." Once the door has shut behind Tobias, Todd opens the trunk and finally finishes off his former assistant by slitting his throat. ("The Ballad of Sweeney Todd: His Hands Were Quick, His Fingers Strong").

Across town, Judge Turpin is tormented by his lust for his ward Johanna and announces to her that he intends to marry her ("Johanna (Reprise)"). Disgusted by the prospect, Johanna and Anthony plan to elope ("Kiss Me"). At the same time, the Beadle, accompanying his master after court (during which the Judge had sentenced a juvenile offender to death for petty crimes), suggests that the Judge visit Todd's barbershop to improve his appearance to better win Johanna's affections ("Ladies in Their Sensitivities"). Turpin agrees and they set off.

Back at Todd's shop, despite her initial shock at O'Higgins's murder, the ever-practical Mrs. Lovett extracts O'Higgins' gaudy coin purse from his corpse when the Judge arrives. Mrs. Lovett returns downstairs to keep Tobias distracted while an eager Todd bides his time and slowly proceeds to exact his revenge, lulling the Judge into a sense of security ("Pretty Women"). Before he can kill Turpin, however, Anthony barges in to tell Todd about his and Johanna's plans, accidentally informing the outraged Judge. The Judge accuses Todd for conspiring against him before storming out of his parlor, vowing never to return. Todd, in his fury, drives Anthony away before descending into utter madness and broadens the target of his vengeance to all of society by punishing the rich, greedy and corrupt and relieving the poor of their misery by death ("Epiphany"). Mrs. Lovett is, however, more realistic and during a discussion with Todd about how to dispose of O'Higgins' body has a sudden burst of inspiration. She suggests they use the flesh of Todd's victims in her meat pies, an idea which Todd enthusiastically falls in love with ("A Little Priest").

Act II

Sweeney Todd (Len Cariou) and Mrs. Lovett (Angela Lansbury) in the By the Sea scene.

Mrs. Lovett's pie shop has become a thriving business with its new menu ("God, That's Good!"). The only fly in the ointment is the Beggar Woman, who keeps hanging around the pie shop, telling anyone who will listen that Mrs. Lovett is a witch and the devil's wife. Todd and Mrs. Lovett now have a specially-designed mechanized barber's chair that allows Todd to kill someone (preferably a customer who will never be missed) in the barber shop and send the body through a chute directly into the basement bakehouse of the pie shop for Mrs. Lovett to use in her baking. Anthony's fortunes are not so bright as Johanna has disappeared. Over the weeks he searches for her while Todd accustoms himself to the idea that he may never see Johanna again, spending his time methodically slashing throats. ("Johanna (Quartet)"). Later, Mrs. Lovett dreams of a future life with Todd, though he remains uninterested ("By The Sea").

Anthony discovers that the Judge has committed Johanna to Fogg's Asylum for lunatics and, with Todd's help, plans to rescue Johanna by entering the asylum posing as a wigmaker intent on purchasing inmates' hair ("Wigmaker Sequence" and "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd: Sweeney Waited Too Long Before..."). Unknown to Anthony, Todd sends a letter to notify the judge of Anthony's intent to kidnap Johanna, hoping to lure the judge to his shop, where Todd says that Antony plans to return with Johanna; the contents of the letter are sung aloud by the company ("Letter").

Meanwhile, in the pie shop, Toby begins to suspect that Todd is up to no good and, unaware she is in on Todd's activities, expresses his desire to protect Mrs. Lovett, whom he has come to view as a mother figure ("Not While I'm Around"). When he recognizes Mrs. Lovett's purse as the one that had belonged to Pirelli, she locks him in the bakehouse under the pretext of teaching him how to make meat pies. As she leaves, she encounters Beadle Bamford sitting at her harmonium, commissioned by the neighbors to investigate the thick black smoke and strange smells from the pie shop's chimney. Together he and Mrs. Lovett wait for Todd, who arrives and offers the Beadle the promised free shave while Mrs. Lovett plays "Sweet Polly Plunkett" on her harmonium to cover the screams of the Beadle's demise ("Parlor Songs"). In the basement, Toby discovers a hair and a fingernail in a pie he is eating when the bloody corpse of the Beadle tumbles down the chute. Horrified, he tries to escape but realizes that he is locked in. Upstairs, Mrs. Lovett informs Todd that Toby has figured them out; they head downstairs to dispose of him.

Johanna (Lauren Molina) and Anthony (Benjamin Magnuson); national 2007 touring company

While Todd and Mrs. Lovett search the cellars for Tobias, who at this point has vanished into the catacombs, Anthony infiltrates the asylum. When Johanna inadvertently reveals Anthony's true identity, Fogg, the deranged owner of the asylum, attempts to hinder their escape. Anthony finds himself unable to fire his pistol at the man; however, Johanna grabs it and shoots Fogg without hesitation. Anthony and Johanna both flee to Todd's parlor (Johanna disguised in sailor's clothing) while the asylum's inmates pour out onto the streets ("City on Fire").

After Anthony leaves a disguised Johanna in Todd's barber shop to hire a coach to leave London, the Beggar Woman appears, and Johanna hides in the trunk that once held Pirelli's body. Todd discovers the Beggar Woman in his parlor as she desperately tries to warn him about Mrs. Lovett. As Judge Turpin arrives, Todd frantically slits the Beggar Woman's throat and sends her down the chute before Turpin can see her. When Todd assures him that Johanna is totally repentant, the Judge in lecherous expectation asks for a face massage and some cologne. Once he has his victim in his chair and lured into a false sense of security, Todd mocks the Judge and as soon as Turpin figures out who he really is, Todd viciously slits his throat ("The Judge's Return"). As Todd is about to leave the parlor to find Tobias, Johanna emerges from her hiding place. Todd catches her, and, thinking this intruder is a man, prepares to kill her. Todd hears Mrs. Lovett screaming from the bakehouse below, providing a distraction for Johanna to escape. Todd races downstairs.

In the bakehouse, Mrs. Lovett struggles with the dying Judge before she realizes that Todd has killed the Beggar Woman. Todd bursts into the bakehouse at the sound of Mrs. Lovett's scream and, seeing the face of the Beggar Woman clearly in the light from the open oven doors, Todd drops his razor in horror upon the realization that the Beggar Woman is his wife Lucy, whom he thought to be dead. Todd furiously accuses Mrs. Lovett of deceiving him. Mrs. Lovett confesses the truth but insists that she never lied, maintaining that Lucy had indeed taken poison but did not die from its effects, instead going insane. Lovett tells Todd that she withheld the whole truth from him in order to spare him because she loves him. Todd suddenly rises, calms the nervous Mrs. Lovett and tells her that he forgives her. He waltzes her over to the huge oven and hurls her inside, slamming the doors shut. Todd sinks to the floor and cradles his beloved wife in his arms. Toby, now driven completely insane and with his hair now white from the horror of the proceedings, enters and stumbles towards the barber. He picks up Todd's fallen razor as Todd unbuttons his collar. Toby then fatally slashes Todd's throat. As Anthony, Johanna, and some constables burst into the bakehouse, Toby drops the razor and, unmindful of the others, begins to turn the handle for the meat grinder in a mindless parody of his duties for Mrs. Lovett ("Final Scene").

The company assembles one last time to sing "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd." As the resurrected ghosts of Todd and Mrs. Lovett rise from their graves, they conclude that the capability for revenge is within all of us. The company exits; Todd and Mrs. Lovett being the last. Todd pauses at the large iron door at the back of the stage to look at Mrs. Lovett one final time before slamming it in the audience's face.

Principal roles

Character Voice Type[3] Description
Sweeney Todd/Benjamin Barker Bass-Baritone or Baritone Morose and brooding, a barber by profession. Returned to London after fifteen years of unjust incarceration in an Australian penal colony to seek revenge first on the corrupt Judge who sent him there, and then simply on whomever proves unfortunate enough to end up in his shop.
Mrs. Nellie Lovett Contralto[4] or Mezzo-Soprano A cheery and chatty but wholly amoral shopkeeper whose premises and pies are coated in dust and plagued by flies. Would like to be more than merely a landlady to Mr. Todd.
Anthony Hope Baritone or Tenor A young, naïve sailor who has rescued Todd. He falls in love with Johanna Barker.
Johanna Barker Soprano A beautiful young woman. Todd's daughter, but claimed by Judge Turpin as his own ward.
Judge Turpin Bass or Bass-Baritone A corrupt and depraved official. An upholder of justice who twists the system to serve his own ends.
Tobias Ragg Tenor A simple young lad who works first for Pirelli, then for Mrs. Lovett. Does not trust Todd.
Beadle Bamford Tenor/Countertenor Turpin's right-hand man and accomplice to his crimes.
Beggar Woman/Lucy Barker Mezzo-Soprano A mad crone with a filthy tongue whose interjections go unheeded. She is eventually revealed to be Lucy Barker, the wife of Sweeney Todd.
Adolfo Pirelli/Danny O'Higgins Tenor A faux-Italian (truly of Irish descent) flashy barber who attempts to blackmail Todd. As a youngster, worked for Todd for a brief period. (In some productions, can be played by a female but still portrayed as a male character.)

Musical numbers

  • "Organ Prelude"
  • "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd: Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd..." – Ensemble
Act I
  • "No Place Like London" – Todd, Anthony & Beggar Woman
  • "The Barber and His Wife" – Todd
  • "The Worst Pies in London" – Mrs. Lovett
  • "Poor Thing" – Mrs. Lovett & Todd
  • "My Friends" – Todd & Mrs. Lovett
  • "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (Reprise): Lift Your Razor High, Sweeney!..." – Ensemble
  • "Green Finch and Linnet Bird" – Johanna
  • "Ah, Miss" – Anthony, Johanna & Beggar Woman
  • "Johanna" – Anthony
  • "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir" – Tobias Ragg, Todd, Mrs. Lovett & Ensemble
  • "The Contest" – Pirelli
    • "The Contest: Tooth-Pulling Sequence" – Pirelli & Tobias †
  • "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (Reprise 2): Sweeney Pondered and Sweeney Planned..." – Ensemble
  • "Wait" – Mrs. Lovett, Beggar Woman & Todd
  • "Pirelli's Death" – Pirelli
  • "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (Reprise 3): His Hands Were Quick, His Fingers Strong..." – Three tenors
  • "Johanna (Judge's Song): Mea Culpa" – Judge Turpin † ‡
  • "Kiss Me" – Johanna & Anthony
  • "Ladies in Their Sensitivities" – Beadle Bamford
  • "Kiss Me (Reprise/Quartet)" – Beadle Bamford, Johanna, Anthony & Judge Turpin
  • "Pretty Women" – Todd & Judge Turpin
  • "Epiphany" – Todd
  • "A Little Priest" – Todd & Mrs. Lovett
Act II
  • "God, That's Good!" – Tobias, Mrs. Lovett, Todd & Ensemble
  • "Johanna (Reprise/Quartet)" – Anthony, Todd, Johanna & Beggar Woman
  • "By the Sea" – Mrs. Lovett & Todd
  • "Wigmaker Sequence/The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (Reprise 4): Sweeney'd Waited Too Long Before..." – Todd & Anthony/ensemble
  • "The Letter (Quintet)" – Ensemble
  • "Not While I'm Around" – Tobias & Mrs. Lovett
  • "Parlor Songs" 
    • "Sweet Polly Plunkett" – Beadle Bamford & Mrs. Lovett
    • "Tower of Bray" – Beadle Bamford, Mrs. Lovett & Tobias
    • "Sweet Polly Plunkett (Reprise)" – Mrs. Lovett
  • "Final Sequence"
    • "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (Reprise 5): The Engine Roared, The Motor Hissed..." – Ensemble
    • "Fogg's Asylum/Fogg's Passacaglia" – Ensemble
    • "City on Fire/Searching" – Ensemble, Johanna, Anthony, Todd, Mrs. Lovett & Beggar Woman
    • "Ah, Miss (Reprise)" – Anthony & Johanna
    • "Beggar Woman's Lullaby" – Beggar Woman §
    • "The Judge's Return" – Todd & Judge Turpin
    • "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (Reprise 6): Lift Your Razor High, Sweeney!..." – Ensemble
    • "Final Scene" – Todd, Mrs. Lovett & Tobias
  • "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (Reprise 7): Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd..." – Ensemble
† Despite being cut in previews for reasons of length, these numbers were included on the Original Cast Recording. It has been restored in subsequent productions.
‡ This song is after "The Contest" in the 2005 Broadway Revival.
§ This number was written for the London production and first recorded for the 2000 New York Philharmonic concert performance.


Original Broadway Production

The original production premiered on Broadway at the Uris Theatre on March 1, 1979 and closed on June 29, 1980 after 557 performances and 19 previews. Directed by Hal Prince and choreographed by Larry Fuller, the production design was by Eugene Lee, costume design by Franne Lee and lighting design by Ken Billington. The cast included Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett, Len Cariou as Todd, Victor Garber as Anthony, Sarah Rice as Johanna, Merle Louise as the Beggar Woman, Ken Jennings as Tobias, Edmund Lyndeck as Judge Turpin, Joaquin Romaguera as Pirelli, and Jack Eric Williams as Beadle Bamford. The production was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning eight including Best Musical. Dorothy Loudon and George Hearn replaced Lansbury and Cariou later in the run. The first national US tour started on October 24, 1980, in Washington, D.C. and ended in August 1981 in Los Angeles, California. Lansbury was joined by Hearn and this version was taped during the Los Angeles engagement and broadcast on PBS on September 12, 1982, receiving wide critical and popular attention. A North American tour started on February 23, 1982, in Wilmington, Delaware, and ended on July 17, 1982, in Toronto, Ontario. June Havoc and Ross Petty starred.

Original London Production

The first London production opened on July 2, 1980, at the West End's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, starring Denis Quilley and Sheila Hancock along with Andrew C. Wadsworth as Anthony, Mandy More as Johanna, Michael Staniforth as Tobias, Austin Kent as Judge Turpin, Dilys Watling as the Beggar Woman, David Wheldon-Williams as Beadle Bamford, Oz Clarke as Jonas Fogg, and John Aron as Pirelli. The show ran for 157 performances. Despite receiving mixed reviews, the production won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 1980.

1989 Broadway revival

The first Broadway revival opened on September 14, 1989 at the Circle in the Square Theatre, where it ran for 188 performances after 47 previews. It was produced by Theodore Mann and directed by Susan H. Schulman. The cast included Bob Gunton, Beth Fowler, Eddie Korbich and David Barron. This production received four Tony Award nominations for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical and Best Direction of a Musical, but failed to win any.

1993 London revival

In 1993, Sweeney Todd was revived at the Royal National Theatre in London. It starred Alun Armstrong as Todd and Julia McKenzie as Mrs. Lovett, both of whom received Olivier Awards for their performances. It also featured Adrian Lester.[5] Director Declan Donnellan was praised by Stephen Sondheim for his small "chamber" approach to the show which was the composer's original vision for the piece. The production also received the Olivier for Best Revival of a Musical as well as nominations for Best Director and two for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical.

2004 London revival

In 2004, John Doyle directed a revival of the musical at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury, England, running from July 27, 2004 until October 9, 2004. This production subsequently transferred to the West End's Trafalgar Studios and then the Ambassadors Theatre. This production was notable for having no orchestra, with the 10-person cast playing the score themselves on musical instruments that they carried onstage.[6]This marked the first time in nearly ten years that a Sondheim show had been presented in the commercial West End. It starred Paul Hegarty as Todd, Karen Mann as Mrs. Lovett, Rebecca Jackson as The Beggar Woman, Sam Kenyon as Tobias, Rebecca Jenkins as Johanna, David Ricardo-Pearce as Anthony and Colin Wakefield as Judge Turpin. This production closed February 5, 2005.

2005 Broadway revival

A version of the musical directed by John Doyle in the West End transferred to Broadway, opening on November 3, 2005 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre with a new cast, all of whom played their own instruments, as had been done in London. The cast consisted of: Patti LuPone (Mrs. Lovett/Tuba/Percussion), Michael Cerveris (Todd/Guitar), Manoel Felciano (Tobias/Violin/Clarinet/Piano), Alexander Gemignani (Beadle/Piano/Trumpet), Lauren Molina (Johanna/Cello), Benjamin Magnuson (Anthony/Cello/Piano), Mark Jacoby (Turpin/Trumpet/Percussion), Donna Lynne Champlin (Pirelli/Accordion/Flute/Piano), Diana DiMarzio (Beggar Woman/Clarinet) and John Arbo (Fogg/Double bass). The production ran for 384 performance and was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two: Best Direction of a Musical for Doyle and Best Orchestrations for Sarah Travis who had reconstructed Jonathan Tunick's original arrangements to suit the ten-person cast and orchestra. Because of the small scale of the musical, it cost $3.5 million to make, a sum small in comparison to many Broadway musicals and recouped in nineteen weeks.[7]A national tour based on Doyle's Broadway production began on August 30, 2007 with Judy Kaye (who had temporarily replaced LuPone in the Broadway run) as Mrs. Lovett and David Hess as Todd. Alexander Gemignani also played the title role for the Toronto run of the tour in November 2007.[8]

2012 London revival

Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton starred in a new production of the show which played at the 2011 The Chichester Festival Theatre, running from 24 September to 5 November 2011. Directed by Jonathan Kent, the cast included Ball as Todd, Staunton as Mrs. Lovett, John Bowe as Judge Turpin, Lucy May Barker as Johanna and Peter Polycarpou as Beadle Bamford.[9]The production received positive reviews from both critics and audience members and is transfering to the Adelphi Theatre in London's West End in March 2012.[10].

Other notable productions

1994 Los Angeles revival

In 1994, East West Players in Los Angeles staged a revival of the show directed by Tim Dang, featuring a largely Asian Pacific American cast. It was also the first time the show had been presented in an intimate house (Equity 99-seat). The production received 5 Ovation Awards including the Franklin Levy Award for Best Musical (Smaller Theatre) and Best Director (Musical) for Dang.[citation needed]

2002 Kennedy Center production

As part of the Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration, Sweeney Todd ran from May 10, 2002 through June 30, 2002 at the Eisenhower Theatre, starring Brian Stokes Mitchell as Todd, Christine Baranski as Mrs. Lovett, Hugh Panaro as Anthony, Walter Charles (a member of the original cast), as Judge Turpin and Celia Keenan-Bolger as Johanna. It was directed by Christopher Ashley with choreography by Daniel Pelzig.[11]

2007 Dublin production

Irish tenor David Shannon starred as Todd in a highly successful Dublin production of the show at the Gate Theatre, which ran from April 2007 through June 2007. The production employed a minimalistic approach: the cast consisted of a small ensemble of 14 performers, and the orchestra was a seven-piece band. The look of the production was quite abstract. The Sunday Times wrote that "The black backdrop of David Farley's rough hewn set and the stark minimalism of Rick Fisher's lighting suggest a self-conscious edginess, with Shannon's stylised make-up, long leather coat and brooding countenance only adding to the feeling." [12][13] When a character died, flour was poured over them and their shoes would be removed.[citation needed]

2010 National Youth Music Theatre, London

In 2010, fifty members of the National Youth Music Theatre staged a production at the Village Underground as part of Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday celebrations in London. NYMT took the show out of a conventional theatre space and staged it within a converted Victorian warehouse in the city’s East End. The production, directed by Martin Constantine, received positive reviews. Michael Darvell, of Classical Source, wrote:'All in all, it’s one of the best productions I have seen of Sondheim’s masterpiece and I have seen most of them. The future of British musical theatre is truly safe in the hands of exceptional performers such as those of the National Youth Music Theatre'. NYMT's patron Jude Law was in attendance on the last night and is said to have enjoyed the show. The NYMT has decided to revive Sweeney Todd for 2011 as part of the International Youth Arts Festival at the Rose Theatre in Kingston Upon Thames. Performances will take place on the 13th, 16th and 17th of July 2011. [14]

2011 Paris production

A major new production opens in 2011 at the Theatre du Chatelet (Paris), which first gave Sondheim a place on the French stage with their production of A Little Night Music. Sweeney Todd runs from April 22, 2011 to May 21, 2011. The director is Lee Blakeley, choreography by Lorena Randi, and designs by Tanya McAllin, with a cast that features Rod Gilfrey and Franco Pomponi (Sweeney Todd) and Caroline O'Connor (Mrs Lovett).[15]

Opera house productions

The first opera company to mount Sweeney Todd was the Houston Grand Opera in a production directed by Hal Prince which ran from June 14, 1984 through June 24, 1984 for a total of 10 performances. Conducted by John DeMain, the production used scenic designs by Eugene Lee, costume designs by Franne Lee, and lighting designs by Ken Billington. The cast included Timothy Nolen in the title role, Joyce Castle as Mrs. Lovett, Cris Groenendaal as Anthony, Lee Merrill as Johanna, Will Roy as Judge Turpin, and Barry Busse as The Beadle.[16]

In 1984 the show was presented by the New York City Opera. Hal Prince recreated the staging using the simplified set of the 2nd national tour. It was well-received and most performances sold out. It was brought back for limited runs in 1986 and 2004. Notably the 2004 production starred Elaine Paige as Mrs Lovett. The show was also performed by Opera North in 1998 in the UK starring Steven Page and Beverley Klein, directed by David McVicar and conducted by James Holmes.

In the early 2000s, Sweeney Todd gained acceptance with opera companies throughout the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, Israel, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Australia. Bryn Terfel, the popular Welsh bass-baritone, performed the title role at Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2002, with Judith Christian, David Cangelosi, Timothy Nolen, Bonaventura Bottone, Celena Shaffer and Nathan Gunn. It was performed at the Royal Opera House in London as part of the Royal Opera season (December 2003-January 2004) starring Sir Thomas Allen as Todd, Felicity Palmer as Mrs. Lovett and a supporting cast that included Rosalind Plowright, Robert Tear and Jonathan Veira as Judge Turpin. The Israeli National Opera has performed Sweeney Todd twice. The Icelandic Opera performed Sweeney Todd in the fall of 2004, the first time in Iceland.

Concert productions

Patti LuPone and George Hearn in the final moment of the 2000 concert version

A "Reprise!" Concert version was performed at Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre on March 12–14, 1999, with Kelsey Grammer as Todd, Christine Baranski as Mrs. Lovett, Davis Gaines as Anthony, Neil Patrick Harris as Tobias, Melissa Manchester as The Beggar Woman, Roland Rusinek as The Beadle, Dale Kristien as Johanna and Ken Howard as Judge Turpin.

Director Lonny Price directed a semi-staged concert production of "Sweeney Todd" from May 4, 2000 to May 6 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, New York with the New York Philharmonic. The cast included George Hearn (a last-minute substitute for Bryn Terfel), Patti LuPone, Neil Patrick Harris, Davis Gaines, John Aler, Paul Plishka, Heidi Grant Murphy, Stanford Olsen and Audra McDonald. This concert also played in San Francisco, from July 9, 2001 to July 21, with the San Francisco Symphony. Hearn and LuPone were joined once again by Harris, Aler, and Olsen as well as new additions Victoria Clark, Lisa Vroman and Timothy Nolen. This production was taped for PBS broadcast. The same production played at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago on August 24, 2001, with most of the cast from the preceding concerts, except for Plishka and Clark, who were replaced by Sherrill Milnes and Hollis Resnik.

London's Royal Festival Hall hosted two performances on February 13, 2000, starring Len Cariou as Todd, Judy Kaye as Mrs. Lovett, and Davis Gaines as Anthony. A 4-day concert took place in July 2007 at the same venue with Bryn Terfel, Maria Friedman, Daniel Boys and Philip Quast.

Film adaptation

A feature film adaptation of Sweeney Todd, jointly produced by DreamWorks and Warner Bros., was released on December 21, 2007. Tim Burton directed from a screenplay by John Logan. It stars Johnny Depp as Todd (Depp received an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award for his performance), Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin, Sacha Baron Cohen as Signor Pirelli, Jamie Campbell Bower as Anthony Hope, Laura Michelle Kelly as The Beggar Woman, Jayne Wisener as Johanna, Ed Sanders as Toby, and Timothy Spall as Beadle Bamford. The film received high acclaim from critics and theatregoers and also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy.[17]

School edition

Music Theatre International recently adapted the production to be performed by high schoolers. The only substantial edits that have been made are the removal of the Judge's "Johanna" and slightly different lyrics for a few of the Beggar Woman interludes, as well as removing most of the swearing, and providing alterations to the stage directions so the murders did not need to be performed onstage. Repertory Company Theatre of Dallas's school of musical theater division in the US, Ysgol Bryn Elian, North Wales from the UK; Artestudio, a musical theatre school in Mexico; John Septimus Roe Anglican Community School in Perth, Australia and the Sunbeams School in Dhaka, Bangladesh were the first in their respective countries to perform the School Edition.


Stephen Sondheim believes that Sweeney Todd is a story of revenge and how it consumes a vengeful person. He has asserted, "…what the show is really about is obsession."[18]

Hal Prince believed it to be an allegory of capitalism and its selfish qualities. He described this theme as follows: "It was only when I realized that the show was about revenge…and then came the factory, and the class struggle—the terrible struggle to move out of the class in which you're born…"[19]

Musical analysis

Sondheim's score is one of his most complex, with orchestrations by his long-time collaborator Jonathan Tunick. Relying heavily on counterpoint and rich, angular harmonies, its compositional style has been compared to Maurice Ravel, Sergei Prokofiev, and Bernard Herrmann (who scored Alfred Hitchcock films). Sondheim also utilizes the ancient Dies Irae in the eponymous ballad that runs throughout the score, later heard in a musical inversion, and in the accompaniment to "Epiphany". According to Raymond Knapp "Most scene changes bring back "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd", which includes both fast and slow versions of the "Dies Irae".[20] He also relies heavily on leitmotif - at least twenty distinct ones can be identified throughout the score.

Depending on how and where the show is presented, it is sometimes considered an opera.[21] Sondheim himself has described the piece as a "black operetta",[22] and indeed, only about 20% of the show is spoken; the rest is sung-through.[23]

In his essay for the 2005 cast album, Jeremy Sams finds it most relevant to compare Sondheim's work with operas that similarly explore the psyche of a mad murderer or social outcast, such as Alban Berg's Wozzeck (based on the play by Georg Büchner) and Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes (1945). On the other hand, it can be seen as a precursor to the later trend of musicals based on horror themes, such as The Phantom of the Opera (1986), Jekyll & Hyde (1997), Little Shop of Horrors (1982) and Dance of the Vampires (1997), which used the description of the trend, "grusical", as its commercial label. Theatre critic and author Martin Gottfried wrote on this subject: "Does so much singing make it an opera? Opera is not just a matter of everything being sung. There is an operatic kind of music, of singing, of staging. There are opera audiences, and there is an opera sensibility. There are opera houses. Sweeney Todd has its occasional operatic moments, but its music overall has the chest notes, the harmonic language, the muscularity, and the edge of Broadway theater." [24]

Donal Henahan wrote an essay in The New York Times concerning the 1984 New York City Opera production: "The difficulty with Sweeney was not that the opera singers were weaklings incapable of filling the State Theater with sound - Miss Elias, who was making her City Opera debut, has sung for many years at the Metropolitan, a far larger house. The other voices in the cast also were known quantities. Rather, it seemed to me that the attempt to actually sing the Sondheim score, which relies heavily on a dramatic parlando or speaking style, mainly showed how far from the operatic vocal tradition the work lies. The score, effective enough in its own way, demanded things of the opera singers that opera singers as a class are reluctant to produce."[25]

Awards and nominations

Original Broadway production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1979 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Won
Outstanding Book of a Musical Hugh Wheeler Won
Outstanding Lyrics Stephen Sondheim Won
Outstanding Music Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Len Cariou Won
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Angela Lansbury Won
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Ken Jennings Won
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Merle Louise Won
Outstanding Choreography Larry Fuller Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Harold Prince Won
Outstanding Set Design Eugene Lee Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Franne Lee Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design Ken Billington Nominated
Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Book of a Musical Hugh Wheeler Won
Best Original Score Stephen Sondheim Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Len Cariou Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Angela Lansbury Won
Best Direction of a Musical Harold Prince Won
Best Scenic Design Eugene Lee Won
Best Costume Design Franne Lee Won
Best Lighting Design Ken Billington Nominated

Original London production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1980 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Musical Won
Best Actor in a Musical Denis Quilley Won
Best Actress in a Musical Sheila Hancock Won

1989 Broadway revival

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1990 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival of a Musical Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Bob Gunton Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Beth Fowler Nominated
Outstanding Set Design James Morgan Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design Mary Jo Dondlinger Won
Tony Award Best Revival of a Musical Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Bob Gunton Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Beth Fowler Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Susan H. Schulman Nominated

1993 London revival

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1994 Laurence Olivier Award Best Musical Revival Won
Best Director of a Musical Declan Donnellan Won
Best Actor in a Musical Alun Armstrong Won
Best Actress in a Musical Julia McKenzie Won
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical Adrian Lester Nominated
Barry James Nominated

2003 Ireland production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2003 AIMS Award Best Overall Show Won
Best Actor Todd Brothers Won
Best Actress Marie Kelly Won
Best Supporting Actor Chris Ramsey Won
Best Supporting Actress Yvonne Ramsey Nominated
Best Director Pat Dwyer Won
Best Music Director Graham Walsh Nominated
Best Chorus Won

2005 Broadway revival

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2006 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival of a Musical Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Michael Cerveris Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Patti LuPone Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Alexander Gemignani Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Sarah Travis Won
Outstanding Director of a Musical John Doyle Won
Outstanding Set Design Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design Richard G. Jones Won
Outstanding Sound Design Dan Moses Schreier Nominated
Tony Award Best Revival of a Musical Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Michael Cerveris Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Patti LuPone Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Manoel Felciano Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical John Doyle Won
Best Orchestrations Sarah Travis Won

Recordings and broadcasts

An original Broadway cast recording was released in 1979. It included the Judge's "Johanna" and the tooth-pulling contest from Act I, which had been cut in previews.[26]

A performance of the 1980 touring company was taped before an audience at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles during the first national tour, with additional taping done in an empty theatre. It was televised on September 12, 1982, on The Entertainment Channel and broadcast on PBS.[27] It was later released on both VHS and DVD.[28]

In July 1994, the Royal National Theatre revival production starring Denis Quilley and Julia McKenzie was broadcast by the BBC.[29] Opera North's production was also broadcast by the BBC on March 30, 1998 as was the Royal Opera House production in 2003.

In 1995, the Barcelona cast recorded a cast album sung in Catalan. This production was also broadcast on Spanish television.

The 2000 New York City Concert was recorded and released in a deluxe 2-CD set.[30]

In 2001, the same concert was held in San Francisco with the same leads and minor cast changes. It was also videotaped and broadcast on PBS, and then was released to VHS and DVD in 2001.[31]

The 2005 Broadway revival also was recorded.[32] The producers originally planned only a single-disk "highlights" version; however, they soon realized that they had recorded more music than what could be fit on one disk and it was not financially feasible to bring the performers back in to re-record. The followings songs were cut: Wigmaker Sequence, The Letter, Parlour Songs, City On Fire, and half of the final sequence (which includes The Judge's Return).[33]

In 2007, a soundtrack to accompany the film version was released. Songs were performed by the film's stars, including Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Jayne Wisener, Laura Michelle Kelly, and Ed Sanders.


  1. ^ "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street". IBDB.com. Retrieved on January 17, 2008.
  2. ^ Sweeney Todd 1982 video.
  3. ^ Sweeney Todd at stageagent.com
  4. ^ "Brilliant Gestures" by Caridad Svich
  5. ^ "London" sondheim.org
  6. ^ Murray, Matthew (November 3, 2005). "Sweeney Todd". Talkin' Broadway. Retrieved on January 18, 2008.
  7. ^ Hernandez, Ernio."A Killing New Sweeney Todd Revival Recoups on Broadway" playbill.com, March 21, 2006
  8. ^ BMW News Desk (November 17, 2007)."Gemignani Subs for Hess in 'Sweeney Todd' National Tour" BroadwayWorld.com, Retrieved on January 18, 2008.
  9. ^ Shenton, Mark."Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton Open in U.K.'s Chichester Production of 'Sweeney Todd' Oct. 6" playbill.com, October 6, 2011
  10. ^ http://www.whatsonstage.com/news/theatre/london/E8831320395395/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter
  11. ^ The Kennedy Center Sondheim CelebrationSondheim Guide, Retrieved on January 18, 2008
  12. ^ Heaney, Mick. "Barber makes the cut", The Sunday Times (London), April 29, 2007, p.18
  13. ^ Crawley, Peter. "'Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street'", The Irish Times, April 26, 2007, Features; p.16
  14. ^ "[www.nymt.org.uk]" the National Youth Music Theatre
  15. ^ Hetrick, Adam.Parisian Sweeney Todd, With Rod Gilfry, Franco Pomponi and Caroline O'Connor, Begins April 22" playbill.com, April 22, 2011
  16. ^ www.sondheimguide.com sondheimguide.com
  17. ^ "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 2008-04-18. http://web.archive.org/web/20080418031550/http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1183955-sweeney_todd_the_demon_barber_of_fleet_street/. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 
  18. ^ Sondheim & Co., Second Edition, 1986, Zadan, Craig, p. 245, Harper & Row, ISBN 0-06-015649-X
  19. ^ Brown, Larry. "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street". Sondheim Notes. Retrieved on January 18, 2008.
  20. ^ Knapp, Raymond. The American Musical and the Performance of Personal Identity ( 2009). Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691141053. p. 333
  21. ^ Eder, Richard.[1]New York Times, March 2, 1979, p. C3
  22. ^ National Initiatives: Great American Voices Military Base Tour - Sweeney Todd
  23. ^ [2] californiachronicle.com
  24. ^ Gottfried, Martin. Sondheim (Enlarged and Updated) (2000). Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN 0-8109-4179-8. p. 125
  25. ^ Henahan, Donal. "Music View; Why Can't Verdi Voices Handle Sondheim?"The New York Times, October 21, 1984
  26. ^ "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979 Original Broadway Cast) (CAST RECORDING)". Amazon.com. Retrieved on January 16, 2008.
  27. ^ "Sweeney Todd on TV". Sondheim Guide. Retrieved on January 16, 2008.
  28. ^ "Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (1982)". Amazon.com. Retrieved on January 16, 2008.
  29. ^ Hutchins, Michael H. (February 18, 2006) "Sweeney Todd". Sondheim Guide. Retrieved on September 25, 2006.
  30. ^ "Sweeney Todd Live at the New York Philharmonic". Amazon.com. Retrieved on January 16, 2008.
  31. ^ "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Concert". IMDb.com. Retrieved on January 16, 2008.
  32. ^ "Sweeney Todd (2005 Broadway Revival Cast)". Amazon.com. Retrieved on January 16, 2008.
  33. ^ Fanning, Frank. "Sweeney Todd at the Cast Album Database". Retrieved on September 25, 2006.

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