“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” the 1979 Tony Award-winning musical thriller with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by High Wheeler, takes the boards this weekend at the South Jackson Civic Center.
One of the darkest and bloodiest musicals ever written, the story follows skilled Victorian-era barber Benjamin Barker (Jonathan Higdon), who returns home to London after 15 years in exile for a crime he did not commit.
Calling himself Sweeney Todd, Barker sets up shop above a failing meat pie shop run by resourceful proprietress Mrs. Lovett (Heather Kleinfield), hoping to be reunited with his estranged wife and daughter.
When the widow Lovett tells him what happened to Barker’s wife, his true identity is revealed in his determination to exact revenge on the corrupt Judge Turpin (Eric Petersen) who framed him and, with the help of his underling Beadle Bamford (Jacob Gray), ravaged his young wife.
When he further learns that the judge has turned his lecherous eye to Barker’s daughter Johanna (Rachel Stewart), Todd’s murderous rage sharpens and his blade carves out a new fortune for the soon-to-be thriving pie shop in a mutually profitable arrangement.
Fleshing out the “meat” of the cast are Zeb Swerske as Todd’s fellow traveler Anthony Hope; Olivia Thommason as Todd’s unwitting apprentice Tobias Ragg; Greg Gressel as the rival Italian barber Adolfo Pirelli who knows more than he should; Allen Craig as Jonas Fogg, the corrupt head of Fogg’s Asylum; and Janette King as the beggar woman.
Musical Director Todd Nichols took charge of the difficult vocal score, a favorite among opera companies, and orchestration.
Because the plot is rife with revenge and murder, “Sweeney Todd” may not be appropriate for all ages. Still, for its adult themes and violence, the revenge tragedy is laced with humor and patrons may want a handkerchief in hand for its heartbreaking conclusion.
Directed by Cynthia Reddekopp and choreographed by Kristin Carroll, the South Jackson production opened Thursday night at 404 S. Jackson St. and continues through Sunday.
Performances begin at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and the Sunday matinee begins at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Youth tickets are $15 in advance, $17 at the door.
For tickets, call 455-5321 or purchase them online at SouthJackson.org.
Kelly Lapczynski may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.