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The University of Virginia’s College at Wise Theater Department is at work on its spring production of the hit Broadway musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The musical is based on the 1973 play by Christopher Bond, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Hugh Wheeler. The production opens April 27 in the Gilliam Center for the Arts Black Box Theater on the UVA Wise campus in conjunction with the Pro-Art Association’s 45th season.
Featuring a twenty-two-member cast and crew, the musical thriller focuses on the murderous machinations of Sweeney Todd (Ashlyn Mullins), a vengeful English barber and his accommodating landlady Mrs. Lovett (Annie Hay). The gruesome story follows the barber as he plots his revenge against the corrupt Judge Turpin (Luke Sage), who sent him to prison on false charges and subsequently proceeded to destroy Todd’s family. Upon his release, Sweeney Todd returns to London with a vengeance that quickly turns indiscriminately murderous, broadening to include numerous citizens of Victorian London’s corrupt society. Todd’s actions lead his resourceful accomplice Mrs. Lovett to cover up the murders by baking the victims into meat pies. The darkly comic story explores the motivations for, and consequence of, revenge.
The Tony Award-winning play opened on Broadway in 1979 and in London’s West End in 1980. The infamous character’s legacy can be traced back to the penny dreadful serial The String of Pearls: A Romance published in a weekly magazine during the winter of 1846-47. Set in 1785, the story featured as its principal villain a certain Sweeney Todd and included all the plot elements used in later versions. The story was turned into a play before the ending had even been published, and the character Sweeney Todd quickly became familiar across Victorian England. Christopher Bond’s 1973 adaptation introduced a psychological backstory and motivation to Todd’s crimes. Stephen Sondheim first conceived of a musical version of the story after he saw a production of Bond’s play at Theatre Royal Stratford East.
Pulitzer prize-winning composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021) was one of the most important figures in twentieth-century musical theater. The late Sondheim began his career by writing the lyrics for West Side Story (1957) and Gypsy (1959). His best-known works include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Into the Woods (1987).
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street will run April 27-30 with performances beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the public or free with presentation of a UVA Wise I.D. Through partnership with the Pro-Art Association, Pro-Art season ticket holders are also free to attend. Tickets may be purchased in person before the shows or at etix.com (service fee applies). The Box Office opens one hour prior to the start of each performance. In accordance with current UVA Wise masking guidelines, masks are optional for patrons in attendance. Given the dark themes and staged violence of the musical, parents are encouraged to use discretion in bringing children to the production.
Pro-Art’s mission is to promote the arts and expand accessibility to cultural experiences for residents and students in Wise, Lee, and Dickenson Counties and the City of Norton. For more information about planned performances or to purchase season tickets, please visit https://www.proartva.org/.
The UVA Wise Theater Department is devoted to theater as a unified art form that blurs the lines between visual-art, story and music by fusing performance, design, and engineering in a single, meaningful experience. For more information about the program, please visit https://www.uvawise.edu/academics/majors-minors/theater.

Tickets are $10 at the door. Advance tickets at etix.com (service fee applies).

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