This season’s production of Sweeney Todd at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City is an unprecedented and incredible undertaking. This wickedly funny and dark musical is a winner of eight Tony Awards and is playing through September 9.
Introduced in the 1840s, the story of Sweeney Todd – also known as The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – tells the story of a man seeking revenge in London. Murder ensues, just as his neighbor Mrs. Lovett finds the “perfect ingredient” for her suspicious meat pies.
Enjoy these 10 fun facts you may not know about this hilarious and disturbing musical:
- This is the first musical ever to be performed in an outdoor theatre at the Festival and it required a massive upgrade and installment of a new sound system in the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre that began over two years ago.
- And given its epic, Shakespearean nature - encompassing themes of innocence, betrayal, love, lust, humor, deceit, revenge, insanity, murder - it is the perfect “first musical” to take the stage in the Engelstad.
- Brad Carroll directed the Festival’s production this season. He’s been directing plays and musicals for over 35 years and has been a part of the Festival for 17 seasons since 2002.
- J. Michael Bailey, a Utah native, plays the title role of Sweeney Todd, which he also performed last fall at the West Valley Performing Arts Center. Bailey is also a Festival alum, having performed the role of Jean Val Jean in the 2012 production of Les Miserables, among other roles.
- A very difficult feat musically, Stephen Sondheim’s musical is 80% sung while only 20% contains spoken dialogue.
- Sweeney’s fancy barber chair in the Festival’s production was a customized, handmade piece built by Festival staff.
- Sweeney Todd’s villainous character originated in the penny dreadful series The String of Pearls around 1846. In this story, Sweeney was a thief with Mrs. Lovett– who was originally just a business partner, not a hopeful lover. In the series, they were simply motivated by greed, not revenge – which is now the primary theme of the musical.
- The idea of the cannibalistic pastry – the meat pies – may sound familiar. This idea appeared around 1594 in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, as well as in Charles Dickens’ novel Martin Chuzzlewit, written in 1844.
- The meat pies in the Festival’s production are made of cosplay foam, batting, and a series of glazes to make them look delicious and edible.
- There is a common misconception that the original novel was based on fact. We are happy to note that Sweeney Todd is not based on a true story! This may put your mind at ease when you enjoy your next meat pie.
Get your tickets today for the final weeks of performances of Sweeney Todd. Other shows closing by September 10 are Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well and King Lear in the Engelstad Theatre, and Trouble in Mind in the Randall L. Jones Theatre. Open through October 8 are The Sound of Music and Clue in the Randall, and The Tempest and Thurgood in the Anes Studio Theatre. Visit bard.org or call 800-PLAYTIX for tickets and information. #utahshakes