Sweeney Todd

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  • Sunday JULY 4 2:00 PM
  • Friday JULY 9 7:30 PM
  • Saturday JULY 17 2:00 PM
  • Thursday JULY 22 7:30 PM
  • Sunday JULY 25 2:00 PM
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Attend the tale...

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was the rage of Broadway when it premiered, winning eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score. In the years since, it has migrated to the world’s opera houses, thanks to its thrilling score - full of magnificent solos and sophisticated ensembles - and its larger-than-life characters.

After 15 long years, Sweeney Todd returns from wrongful exile and reopens his barber shop on Fleet Street in London. Together with the quirky, down-on-her-luck piemaker Mrs. Lovett, they cook up a plan that is both good for business and for vengeance. This musical thriller is a razor-sharp masterpiece that delves into the pitfalls of revenge, and will leave spines tingling long after its dramatic conclusion.

Exactly 25 seasons ago, Des Moines Metro Opera was on the vanguard of opera companies presenting this intriguing musical thriller as part of the 1995 Festival Season. This new production will be led by the Marshall and Judy Flapan Principal Conductor and Music Director David Neely and stage director Kristine McIntyre. Baritone Zachary Nelson and mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer make DMMO debuts as Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett, respectively.


Ticket sale dates

Subscription renewals: February 1, 2021
Individual tickets: March 1, 2021 
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MUSIC AND LYRICS BY
Stephen Sondheim

BOOK BY
Hugh Wheeler

FROM AN ADAPTATION BY
Christopher Bond

ORIGINALLY DIRECTED ON BROADWAY BY
Harold Prince

ORCHESTRATIONS BY
Jonathan Tunick

ORIGINALLY PRODUCED ON BROADWAY BY
Richard Barr, Charles Woodward, Robert Freyer, Mary Lea Johnson, Martin Richards, in association with Dean and Judy Manos

PREMIERED
1 March 1979
New York, NY

SUNG IN
English (with English supertitles)

PREVIOUS PRODUCTION
1995

The Artists

Zachary Nelson Sweeney Todd View Website
Lucy Schaufer Mrs. Lovett View Website
Ben Edquist Anthony View Website
Grace Kahl Johanna View Website
Wayne Tigges Judge Turpin View Website
Zoie Reams Beggar Woman View Website
Christian Sanders Tobias Ragg View Website
Corey Bix Beadle Bamford View Website
Peter Scott Drackley Adolfo Pirelli View Website
David Neely Conductor View Website
Kristine McIntyre Director View Website
R. Keith Brumley Scenic Design
Kate Ashton Lighting Design View Website
Jonathan Knipscher Costume Design View Website

Synopsis

 Act One

On the London docks, Anthony Hope, a young sailor, expresses his joy at being back in the city. His companion, Sweeney Todd, is not so sure. A Beggar Woman appears and seems to recognize Todd, but he fends her off. Dismissing Anthony's offer of money, Todd tells the sailor to seek him out on Fleet Street.

Todd enters a Pie Shop belonging to Mrs. Lovett, who is thrilled to have a customer but the first to acknowledge that her pies are awful, meat being so hard to come by.  When Todd inquires about renting the empty room above her shop, Lovett relates the sad story of Benjamin Barker, a foolish young barber whose pretty wife Lucy was coveted by the evil Judge Turpin. After seducing and raping Lucy, the Judge arranged to have Barker transported to Australia for a crime he didn't commit. As Todd shouts in anguish, Mrs. Lovett realizes that he is actually Benjamin Barker. She tells him that Lucy took arsenic but Judge Turpin has adopted his daughter Johanna. She then brings Todd his razors and Todd is thrilled to be reunited with his old friends.

Outside Judge Turpin's mansion, Anthony is captivated by the sight of Johanna, who sits in her window singing. Anthony buys her a bird from a passing bird seller and the two instantly fall in love. Judge Turpin returns home accompanied by the Beadle Bamford. While Turpin orders Johanna back inside, the Beadle warns Anthony to stay away and kills the bird.

In St. Dustan's Marketplace, Tobias hawks Pirelli's Miracle Elixir to an admiring crowd. When Pirelli himself appears, Todd challenges him to a shaving contest and wins easily. Later in his shop, Todd expresses his hope that the Judge will soon pay him a visit. Anthony arrives full of plans to elope with Johanna and begs Todd's help, unaware that Johanna is Todd's daughter.  Lovett tells Todd to kill Anthony and keep Johanna, to whom she promises to be a loving mother. Pirelli and Tobias appear. After Mrs. Lovett takes Tobias downstairs for a meat pie, Pirelli tries to blackmail Todd by threatening to reveal his true identity. In response, Todd slashes Pirelli's throat and shoves the body in a trunk.

The Judge tells the Beadle that he intends to marry Johanna but is worried by her lack of enthusiasm for the match. While the Beadle convinces the Judge to attend to his appearance by getting a proper shave, Anthony proposes to Johanna and the two decide to run away together. The Judge arrives at Todd's shop for a shave and Todd believes the hour of his revenge is at hand. However, his plans are interrupted when Anthony rushes in and begs his help in hiding Johanna. Furious, the Judge vows to lock Johanna away and storms out. Todd rages about his ruined plans and Lovett reminds him that they need to dispose of Pirelli's body. Suddenly inspiration strikes - they can recycle Todd's victims into meat pies. They celebrate Lovett's genius.

Act Two

Lovett's newly-expanded pie shop is mobbed with customers. While she and Tobias struggle to keep up with the crowd, Todd welcomes the arrives of an elaborate new barber chair, which will deliver his victims directly to Lovett's bake-house via a chute in the floor. As Anthony searches hopelessly for Johanna and Todd begins to systematically kill his customers, the Beggar Woman warns passersby about the strange odors from Lovett's bake-house.

Mrs Lovett sits in the parlor, playing her new harmonium, counting her money and fantasizing about being married to Todd. He, however, is obsessed with revenge. Anthony arrives to ask for Todd's help in freeing Johanna from the madhouse in which the Judge has confined her. Todd agrees and makes him over into a wigmaker to help him gain entry to the asylum. Todd then writes to the Judge, trying to lure him back to the barber shop.

Mrs. Lovett knits a muffler for Tobias, who expresses his warm feelings for her and his mistrust of Todd. Fearing Tobias has become too suspicious, Lovett locks him in the bake-house. When she returns to her parlor, she discovers that the Beadle has arrived to investigate complaints of foul smells from her ovens. Todd returns just in time to allay suspicions and take the Beadle upstairs for a free shave.

Tobias begins to suspect that Lovett's pies are made from human remains just as the Beadle's body appears down the chute. Terrified and on the brink of madness, he hides in the dark as Todd and Lovett come to look for him.

Anthony finds Johanna in the asylum and the two escape, but not before Johanna kills her captor. The lunatics run free as Anthony and Johanna flee to the safety of Todd's shop. Anthony goes for help, leaving Johanna behind disguised as a sailor. The Beggar Woman suddenly enters and Johanna hides. When Todd returns, the Beggar Woman tries to warn him about Lovett. Sensing the Judge's imminent arrival, Todd kills the Beggar Woman and then exacts his revenge on the Judge, but not before revealing his true identity. Johanna emerges from hiding and narrowly escape becoming one of Todd's victims.

In the bake-house, Lovett finishes off the Judge and then tries to drag away the body of the Beggar Woman. When Todd stops her, he realizes the Beggar Woman is none other than his wife Lucy. Finally understanding Lovett's deception, he feigns forgiveness but shoves Lovett into the oven. Tobias appears from the darkness and kills Todd. The company proclaim that we are each a little like Sweeney Todd and then disperse into the city.

The Music

Des Moines Metro Opera founder Robert L. Larsen explains how Sondheim’s musical thriller came from Broadway to Des Moines Metro Opera’s stage.

The origin of this strange tale may have been a recorded murder in the later 18th century in the area of Fleet Street in London. A version appeared in serialized form for The People’s Periodical and Family Library—a 16-page weekly penny newspaper in November 1846. It hit the stage in a version by George Dibden Pitt in March of 1847. The production was full of sensational stage effects including a disappearing barber chair. The Pitt version was the first of many stage versions, mostly melodramas, in which virtue triumphed over vice...

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