Whatsonstage.com and three-time Olivier Award winner Maria Friedman (pictured) will play Mrs Lovett opposite Welsh opera star Bryn Terfel’s “demon barber of Fleet Street” in the Royal Festival Hall’s presentation of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. The concert version will have four performances only, from 5 to 7 July 2007, as part of the celebratory reopening season at the RFH, which has closed for the past two years while undergoing a £111 million refurbishment (See News, 29 May 2007).

A thriller set in Victorian London and based on the infamous tale of the vengefully bloodthirsty barber and his pie-making proprietress, Sweeney Todd was premiered in New York in 1979 in a production directed by Harold Prince and starring Len Cariou as Todd and Angela Lansbury as Mrs Lovett and which won eight Tony Awards. It has music and lyrics by Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler.

At the Southbank Centre, David Freeman directs. The lead performers are accompanied by the Maida Vale Singers and Guildford School of Acting’s chorus. Stephen Barlow directs the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Friedman has won Oliviers for By Special Arrangement, Ragtime and Sondheim’s Passion. She won Best Actress in a Musical in the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards for her last West End outing, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White, which she also starred in on Broadway.

Friedman and bass-baritone Bryn Terfel are joined by two other high-profile Sondheim aficionados. Daniel Evans - who has won two Oliviers for his Sondheim credits, Merrily We Roll Along and the Menier Chocolate Factory revival of Sunday in the Park with George, transferring next year to Broadway – will play Mrs Lovett’s doting servant Tobias, and Philip Quast – who won the Best Actor in a Musical Olivier for the 1990 UK premiere of Sunday in the Park with George (in which he co-starred with Friedman) – will play Judge Turpin. Also so far confirmed are Adrian Thompson (as Pirelli) and Steve Elias (the Beadle).


In other musical casting updates (See News, 23 Feb 2007), the London premiere of American composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown’s two-time Tony Award-winning 1998 musical Parade will star Lara Pulver, who last year appeared in the UK premiere of Brown’s The Last Five Years at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Pulver’s other musical credits include national tours of Miss Saigon, High Society, The Boy Friend, Chicago and Honk! as well as Grease in the West End and, currently, Into the Woods at the Royal Opera House. Based on a true story, Parade is set in 1913 Atlanta, where a Jewish man from Brooklyn stands accused of the murder of a young factory worker. It has a book by Alfred Urhy, music and lyrics by Brown and was co-conceived by Hal Prince, who directed its premiere at New York’s Lincoln Center in 1998.

The new production, running from 14 September (previews from 14 September) to 24 November 2007 at the Donmar Warehouse, will also mark the directorial debut for American choreographer Rob Ashford (Guys and Dolls and Evita for which he won this year’s Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Choreographer). It’s designed by Christopher Oram. No further casting has yet been announced.

- by Terri Paddock