A thriller set in Victorian London and based on the infamous tale of the demon barber of Fleet Street and his pie-making proprietress, Sweeney Todd was hailed as a masterpiece of the American musical stage when it premiered in New York in 1979 in a production, directed by Harold Prince, which starred Len Cariou as Todd and Angela Lansbury as Mrs Lovett and which won eight Tony Awards.
The original West End production starred Denis Quilley and Sheila Hancock at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1980. Other notable London outings have included the 1993 National Theatre revival, with Alun Armstrong and Julia McKenzie, and last December, a production that made history as the first musical ever staged at Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House since it opened in 1892 (See News, 16 Dec 2003).
This new production opened at Newbury’s 216-seat Watermill Theatre, converted from a mill beside the river Lambourn, this past February before embarking on a regional tour. It’s directed and designed by associate director John Doyle (whose Watermill production of The Gondoliers also transferred to the West End), and performed by a cast of nine actor-musicians led by Paul Hegarty as Todd and Karen Mann as Mrs Lovett.
Sweeney Todd is lit by Richard G Jones, with arrangements and musical direction by Sarah Travis. It’s produced in the West End by Adam Kenwright, the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) and Ted Tulchin.
Currently at Trafalgar Studios, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Othello, starring Sello Maake ka Ncube and Antony Sher, concludes its sell-out season on 17 July. In the autumn, Sweeney Todd will be followed by the Young Vic’s production of Simply Heavenly, although exact dates for its run have yet to be confirmed (See The Goss, 8 Jun 2004).
The Trafalgar Studios, owned by ATG, comprises a 380-seat and a 100-seat performance space, both carved out of the former 650-seat Whitehall Theatre (See News, 3 Jun 2004). While common in the subsidised sector, the remodelled building marks the first time that two such studios have existed beneath one roof in the commercial West End.
- by Terri Paddock