The production premiered 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 transferred on 27 July 2004 (previews from 22 July) to the West End’s new 380-seat Trafalgar Studios, where it continues its limited season to 9 October. It will now reopen on 13 October at the West End’s 450-seat New Ambassadors, where it’s booking up to 15 January 2005.
The original cast of nine actor-musicians are due to continue in their roles: Paul Hegarty (as Todd), Karen Mann (Mrs Lovett), Michael Howcroft (Beadle), Stephanie Jacob (Pirelli/Fogg), Rebecca Jackson (Beggar Woman), Rebecca Jenkins (Johanna), Sam Kenyon (Tobias), David Ricardo-Pearce (Anthony) and Colin Wakefield (Judge).
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 is directed and designed by Watermill associate director John Doyle (whose production of The Gondoliers also transferred to the West End) and 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 the New Ambassadors, the transfer of the Tricycle Theatre’s theatrical documentary Guantanamo - 'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom' finishes its limited twelve-week West End season this Saturday, 4 September 2004 (See News, 9 Jun 2004). A separate production of the politically charged drama about the Cuban detainees at the US’ Camp Delta opened this week in New York, timed to coincide with the Republican Convention held in the city.
At Trafalgar Studios, Sweeney Todd will be followed by the Young Vic’s Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated production of Langston Hughes’ musical comedy Simply Heavenly, which opens on 25 October 2004 (previews from 19 October). Original cast members Rhashan Stone, Clive Rowe, Ruby Turner and Nicola Hughes reprise their roles (See News, 16 Aug 2004).
- by Terri Paddock