Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Utah Repertory Theatre & Noorda Center
Director: Timothy Threlfall
Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a grim tale about a man seeking revenge. After being wrongfully imprisoned by Judge Turpin, who abused his power for personal gain, Sweeney escapes only to return to a cruel and vacant world. His wife is presumed dead, and his daughter, Johanna, is under the care of the very man who tore his family apart—Judge Turpin. As he picks up his barber's razor again and returns to his former profession, he plots his revenge against the man who wronged him.
The director stressed that the actors always be easily heard and understood by the audience because so much of the plot unfolds while the actors sing infamously complex music. We reached this goal by keeping the underscore quiet when the actors were singing. The purposeful change in volume with the underscore also provided for a massive dynamic range to make key moments more impactful. Thematically, we focused on the mechanization of the working class by using sounds that transported the audience into a 19th century factory. By manipulating the underlying tempo of reoccurring sound effects, we were able to explore the descent of Sweeney into his own frenzied hell as the show progressed.
Sound Design Samples
The Factory 1
At specific points in the musical, the ensemble was positioned in cages towering over the stage and engaged in repetitive, mechanized actions.
The Factory 2
All production photos: Jon Vickers, Jay Drowns
Costumes: Nancy Cannon
Hair/makeup: Samantha Lambson
Scenic: Josh Steadman
Lighting: Jaron Hermanson
As the show progresses, Sweeney becomes more and more blood thirsty in his quest for revenge. He waxes careless and grows ever more consumed with killing Judge Turpin.
In an act of pure spite against Johanna's plans to elope with young Anthony, Judge Turpin locks Johanna in a mad house. Anthony eventually figures out where she is being kept and has entered into the asylum with a daring plan to save her.
At the culmination of the show, Sweeney discovers that Mrs. Lovett had been purposefully deceiving him. Desperate and with nothing left to lose, Sweeney throws Mrs. Lovett into the furnace that they've been using to bake her famous pies.