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Ten Things You May Not Know about Sweeney Todd – Utah Shakespeare Festival

By Liz Armstrong

The winner of eight Tony Awards in 1979 and numerous awards since, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is both wickedly funny and terrifying. It is one of the most popular and lauded musicals ever, but we think you may still be surprised by some of these interesting tidbits about this masterpiece.

  1. This is the first musical ever to be performed in an outdoor theater at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. It will preview June 21 and open June 24 in the Engelstad Shakespeare Theater.

  2. Sweeney Todd’s character originated in “The String of Pearls,” a story published serially in a weekly magazine during the winter of 1846–47. In this story, Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett were at first just thieves — and later became grisly business partners. In that story, they were simply motivated by greed, not revenge — which is now the primary theme of the musical.

  3. The story went through many incarnations before Christopher Bond turned it into a play (without music) in 1973. Stephen Sondheim first conceived of a musical version that same year, after he went to see Bond’s take on the story at Theater Royal Stratford East.

  4. The musical version, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, has been around for over four decades and has been adapted into five feature films between 1926 and 2007.

  5. In one of these films, Johnny Depp was cast as Sweeney Todd in Tim Burton’s adaptation before anyone even had heard him sing.

  6. A very difficult feat musically, 80 percent of the production is traditionally sung while only 20 percent is spoken dialogue.

  7. In the original production, Angela Lansbury played the role of Mrs. Lovett. She won a Tony Award for her performance.

  8. The idea of ​​the cannibalistic pastry – the meat pies – may sound familiar. This idea appeared around 1594 in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicusas well as in Charles Dickens’s novels The Pickwick Papers (1836–37) and Martin Chuzzlewit (1844).

  9. There is a common misconception that the original story 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.

  10. Commonly mistaken to be set in the Victorian Era in which it was first published, Sweeney Todd’s setting is actually earlier, 1785. This would put it in the Georgian Era.





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