2015 Sweeney Todd FAQ VO General Essay

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Good Afternoon,
We’re sure you can’t wait for our upcoming production of Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of
Fleet Street, A Musical Thriller at Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse. We are writing to you with some extra information about the production to ensure your night is one to remember.
The run times for the performance are as follows:





7:30pm - Act 1
8:50pm – Interval (20 minutes)
9:10pm - Act 2
10:10pm - The End

**Please note all times are approximate and subject to change**
The Story
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
From an Adaptation by Christopher Bond
By arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd Exclusive agent for Music Theatre International
(NY)
Sweeney Todd returns to London seeking revenge on Judge Turpin, who destroyed his family and sent him on trumped-up charges to the colonies. With him is a travelling companion, a sailor named
Anthony Hope. After chasing away a mysterious beggar woman, Sweeney finds his former digs, a barbershop above a rundown pie shop owned by an old acquaintance, Mrs. Lovett. When she recognises him as Benjamin Barker, her amorous objectives are aroused. But Sweeney gets busy instead reviving his razors (his ‘friends’) to help him complete his murderous mission. Elsewhere,
Anthony spies Johanna, who unbeknownst to him is Sweeney’s daughter, singing from her window.
He wants to save her from the lustful grip of the Judge, whose acting as her ward.
As Sweeney gets on with his plans, a local barber, Adolfo Pirelli, threatens to out him, and promptly becomes Sweeney’s first throat slit victim to slide down the chute to the ovens below. The Judge’s own close shave is thwarted by Anthony informing Sweeney of his wedding plans to Johanna in front of the Judge who storms off. Seething with rage, Sweeney undergoes an epiphany, sensing a primal need to take out his frustrations on humankind, while Mrs. Lovett, itching for a business lift, spots an opportunity to enrich her pies with the growing body count. As innocent and guilty alike are dispatched by Sweeney’s razor (including eventually the Judge), he discovers the true identity of the beggar woman, causing him to dispatch Mrs. Lovett and to fall victim to his own vengeful device.
For more information please see the Sweeney Todd programme online at http://issuu.com/victorianopera .

The background to Sweeney Todd
The story of Sweeney Todd began as a ‘Penny Dreadful’ in the 1830’s in a story called The String of
Pearls by Thomas Peckett Prest. It was turned into a number of plays during the next 40 years in
England and the USA, and thereby Sweeney Todd became a popular character for those living in the
Victorian era. There is evidence that suggests some people from this era thought Sweeney Todd was a real person.
There have been many adaptations of the story since the 1900’s, including a 1926 silent film, a
1936 film – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a 1959 musical and a 1960 ballet.
Sondheim based his musical on a 1973 play by Christopher Bond. Bond, borrowing from The Count of Monte Christo, Shakespeare, and The Revenger’s Tragedy, recreates a character in Sweeney Todd that is a tragedy of circumstance, and is more sympathetic. Sondheim saw the play that year and realised the potential of the story as a horror musical.
Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was first performed on Broadway in 1979 and in
London in 1980. It won seven Tony Awards for the production.
Stephen Sondheim (1930 - )
Stephen Sondheim (pictured) was born in New York but after his parents divorced, he moved with his mother to Pennsylvania. By chance his neighbour was Oscar Hammerstein II, the legendary composer of Oklahoma, The King and I, The Sound of Music and many other musicals.
Hammerstein became Sondheim’s teacher and mentor. Sondheim is quoted as saying, “I hear the word teacher and I start to get teary…the word teacher is to me that thing that to religious people
God and saints are.”
He has composed…