Don’t be afraid. It’s only a story. “A musical thriller.” Pure fiction. Granted, it is a rapacious, blood-lusting, vengeful tale of murder and madness, but that’s a lot like life nowadays anyway, isn’t it? Besides, being frightened is fun. Scary things make us laugh… after we gasp… or scream. The magnificent Stephen Sondheim musical masterpiece Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is based on the 1972 Christopher Bond melodrama of the same name, an adaptation of a “penny dreadful” written in the mid-19th century for fans of horror stories. Today, as ever, there are lovers of slasher films, gothic gore and scary movies. Perhaps you are among them? The original 1979 Broadway production of Sweeney Todd, directed by Harold Prince, received eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, and the show continues to be presented in countless revivals and concerts across the country and internationally. So why do people love it? Well, our psyches’ fascination with the psycho side of ourselves needs a venue for expression, lest we find ourselves acting on it… now, doesn’t it? Heaven forbid.
Sondheim seems to be probing to rid himself of an obsession with demons and darkness, releasing within a gorgeously grotesque reconnaissance of evil. Ravishing with great wit and style, Sondheim is at his most playful when rhyming Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett’s cause for cannibalism… his protagonists’ deadly sport. How would you feel if you found yourself being conned into eating a steaming pie of human flesh? Consider this the conceit for the community of cursed souls before you. The Damned, having cannibalized their own citizens, approach us from the house of “a dark and a hungry god.” Toxic, poisoned and betrayed, the only bit of divinity left burning within them is the eternally purgatorial fire of desire to warn us, “To seek revenge may lead to hell, but everyone does it, if seldom as well as Sweeney, as Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street!” – Oh, it’s just a little ol’ ditty, isn’t it?
~ Artistic Director Jim Corti