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Last Updated: 24-Apr-14 11:45


Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

May 13 - 8:00 p.m.
May 14 - 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.
May 15 - 2:00 p.m.
CanWest Performing Arts Centre (at The Forks)

Director - Donna Fletcher
Music Director - Reid Harrison
Set Design - Brian Perchaluk
Lighting Design - Scott Henderson
Costumes - Harlequin Costumes of Winnipeg
Stage Manager - Evan Klassen

Dry Cold Productions will be presenting Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler) May 13 - 15, 2011 at CanWest Performing Arts Centre.

Since its first production in 1979, Sweeney Todd has gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the great examples of the potential of musical theatre. Indeed, in the view of many Musical Theatre historians, it is the best musical ever.  That premiere production starring Angela Lansbury and Winnipeg actor Len Cariou landed like a bombshell in the theatre world. Nothing remotely like it had been seen or heard before.   The New York critics could say little negative about it, as can be seen from the original reviews of the original Broadway production:

- "an enriching spectacle...more fun than a graveyard on the night of the annual skeleton's ball"  (Douglas Watt, Daily News)
- "simply great.the musical has been put together with unusual love, taste, and style" "the most distinguished (score) to grace Broadway in years" (Clive Barnes, New York Post)
- "total theater, a brilliant conception and a s shattering experience" (Howard Kissell, Women's Wear Daily)
- "endlessly inventive, highly expressive score"  "an extraordinary, fascinating, and often ravishingly lovely effort" (Richard Eder, New York Times)

The musical is a seamless combination of horror and black comedy, coupled with soaring melody.  The plot is the sort of ghoulish tale that flourished in the "penny dreadfuls" of 19th century England.  Sweeney Todd returns to London after spending 15 years in prison in Australia.  He is grimly determined to exact revenge against the lecherous Judge Turpin, who had him transported on a false charge, raped his pretty wife, and adopted his little daughter.  Todd sets up his barber shop again and Mrs. Lovett, who runs a pie shop, becomes his ally.  When his effort to kill Turpin is thwarted, a near-crazed Todd begins to murder indiscriminately and Mrs. Lovett, recognizing an excellent opportunity to boost her flagging meat pie sales, uses the bodies as filling for her pies.  Unwittingly involved in the plot are Todd's daughter, Johanna, and Antony, the young sailor who loves her and is eager to rescue her from Judge Turpin's clutches.  There is also Tobias, the slow-witted shop boy who unknowingly becomes the tool for punishing the guilty parties.  Lurking at the edges, like a mad Cassandra, is the figure of the cackling, lascivious old beggar woman, whose true identity shocks both Todd and the audience.

That production went on to win 8 of 9 the Tony awards for which it was nominated including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Actor and Actress in a musical.  It also was nominated for 13 Drama Desk Awards, winning 9 including Outstanding Musical, Book, Lyrics, Music, Actor, Actress and Featured Actor.  A video of the national tour starring Angela Lansbury and George Hearn was recorded and televised in 1982 on PBS and later released on both VHS and DVD.  The musical has expanded its audience significantly with the release of the 2007 Johnny Depp film, directed by Tim Burton.

Winnipeg Free Press Article