Brad Carroll is returning to the Utah Shakespeare Festival for the 2022 season to direct Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street after music directing and conducting Ragtime and The Pirates of Penzance in 2021. He has directed numerous plays at the Festival, including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2019), The Liar (2018), Murder for Two (2016), South Pacific (2015), The Comedy of Errors (2014), Anything Goes (2013), Les Misérables(2012), and many others. He was also the composer and co-creator of Lend Me a Tenor: the Musical which had its world premiere at the Festival in 2007.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival: As playgoers, what should we watch for in Sweeney Todd that would help us enjoy / understand it better?
Brad Carroll: Sweeney Todd is a Victorian thriller. In the spirit of the great Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, clues are subtly planted throughout which ultimately converge, leading to the shocking climax of the play. I think there is great intrigue for the audience in tracking these clues! The story is so complex and well-crafted that it does not require embellishing!
The Festival: What do you hope audience members leave with after seeing the play?
Carroll: More than anything, I hope there will be an appreciation for Sondheim’s masterful score which, at every turn, demonstrates the enormous power of music and how it can propel a story and influence the emotional impact of every single moment.
The Festival: Why should people come see this play?
Carroll: Sweeney Todd is the first musical ever to be performed in the outdoor space at the Festival. This, in and of itself, is an “event.” 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 Shakespeare Theater. Macbeth, Richard III, or Titus Andronicus, Sweeney Todd is a dark tale, exploring dark impulses of human nature and the ends to which they may lead— “to seek revenge may lead to hell, but everyone does it, if seldom as well as Sweeney.”
The Festival: What challenges do you expect to come with directing this play?
Carroll: I am prepared for any number of challenges to present themselves given that we are presenting this play outdoors and opening this dark, mysterious play in broad daylight! I expect an equal number of surprising solutions to present themselves in the course of our “discovering” this piece in the outdoor space, with natural darkness descending as the play progresses, darkens, and intensifies. It is these yet-to-be-seen surprises that interest me the most!
The Festival: Why are you excited to direct this play?
Carroll: I have wanted to direct Sweeney Todd for thirty years. It has been at the top of my list of favorite musicals since first hearing it in 1979. The opportunity to do it with the Festival, outdoors (with all those challenges), and with a most amazing creative team seems the perfect storm of creative circumstances . I’m also excited by the prospect of introducing this musical to people who may not be familiar with it; and perhaps surprising the die-hard Sweeney fans!
The Festival: How long have you been directing plays? How long have you been with the Festival? Why are you a director?
Carroll:I’ve been directing plays and musicals for thirty-five-plus years. I’ve been a part of the Festival for seventeen seasons since 2002. I enjoy the challenges and the rewards ofdirecting — exploring the “global view” of a play that a director must have, as well asallthe minute details that make up the bigger picture. But the process of bringing a show to life through collaboration with fellow artists and colleagues is the ultimate reward!