Attend The Tale to find out how a Victorian penny dreadful became the subject of a play by Christopher Bond which caught the eye of one Stephen Sondheim. Taken with the tale of revenge on a grand and gruesome scale Sondheim started work on what would become the 1979 musical thriller Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler, Sweeney Todd was directed by Harold Prince and would follow their ground-breaking work on Company (1970), Follies (1971) A Little Night Music (1973) and Pacific Overtures (1976).
Returning to London after 15 years of exile, a revenge-driven Sweeney is out for blood. Judge Turpin stole his wife, his daughter and destroyed his life. Sweeney teams up with Mrs Lovett, who has a serious problem – she is in need of a supply of fresh meat for her pies. Need we say more!
Perhaps Sondheim’s most operatic work, Sweeney Todd has been acclaimed as a modern masterpiece. It’s original Broadway outing won 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score, and 9 Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, Best Book , Best Lyrics and Best Music. The original London production won 4 Olivier Awards including Best Musical. The show also won an Olivier for Best Revival in 2013 when Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton took on the roles of Sweeney and Mrs Lovett.
Songs from the score including Pretty Woman and Not While I’m Around have become popular standards thanks to the likes of Barbra Streisand who featured the songs on her Broadway Album.
Sweeney was adapted for the big screen in 2007 by Tim Burton featuring Johnny Depp as the demon barber.
As dark as its themes as it appears that Sweeney Todd will no doubt be performed around the world for a long time to come.
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