Sweeney Todd tells the story of a man whose family is torn apart by the misdeeds of local aristocracy, and the lengths men will go to in order to extract revenge. The Palm Beach Dramaworks’ intimate venue and impassioned actors help to bring the story to life, and make theatre interesting for patrons of all ages. On preview night, more than 75% of the audience were under the age of 40.
The brilliant Tony Award-winning musical thriller by Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and Hugh Wheeler (book), opened at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre on July 14. This deliciously macabre and witty tale of a throat-slitting barber and his enterprising accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, who grinds his victims into meat pies, runs through August 6. Clive Cholerton directs and Emmanuel Schvartzman, making his PBD debut, is the musical director.
The musical was inspired by Christopher Bond’s play of the same name, which was a retelling of a British melodrama that dates back to 1847. The character of Sweeney Todd first appeared in 1846, introduced in a story called The String of Pearls that was serialized in a British penny dreadful for 18 weeks. That story was then adapted for the stage, and Sweeney Todd became part of British culture. During the ensuing 125 years, there were various theatrical productions, two silent movies, a 1936 film, and a 1959 ballet. Bond took a fresh approach to the character with his 1973 play, transforming Sweeney from a stock, two-dimensional villain by giving him a motive for his actions. Sondheim, a fan of suspense films, saw the show on a visit to England, and became excited about the idea of adapting it for the musical stage.
PBD’s production of Sweeney Todd stars Shane Tanner as Sweeney and Ruthie Stephens as Mrs. Lovett, and features Paul Louis Lessard as Anthony Hope (PBD debut), Jennifer Molly Bell as Johanna, Evan Jones as Tobias Ragg (PBD debut), Michael McKenzie as Judge Turpin, Jim Ballard as Beadle Bamford, Shelley Keelor as the Beggar Woman, and Alex Mansoori as Pirelli (PBD debut). Rounding out the cast are Terry Hardcastle, Christopher Holloway (PBD debut), Hannah Richter (PBD debut), and Victoria Lauzun (PBD debut). Scenic design is by Michael Amico, costume design is by Brian O’Keefe, lighting design is by Donald Edmund Thomas, and sound design is by Brad Pawlak.
Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30PM, Friday and Saturday at 8PM. Matinees are Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2PM. Individual tickets are $67, and those 18-40 years old pay their age. Student tickets are available for $15; tickets for educators are half price with proper ID (other restrictions apply). Group rates for 20 or more are also available.
The Don & Ann Brown Theatre is located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach, at 201 Clematis Street. For ticket information contact the box office at (561) 514-4042, open Monday through Wednesday from 10AM to 5PM, Thursday through Saturday from 10AM to 8:30PM, and Sunday from 11AM to 7:30PM, or visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.