Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, A Musical Thriller

Past Production

In this dark and witty tale, revenge-hungry Sweeney Todd returns to London to settle a few scores. After befriending Mrs. Lovett, the owner of a local pie shop known to have the Worst Pies in London, Sweeney and the dutiful baker hatch a plan to save the pie shop and exact a bloody revenge.

Based on the Victorian short story The String of Pearls, Stephen Sondheim’s musical thriller won the 1979 Tony Award for Best Musical. This production remains faithful to the original Broadway show.

Baritone Michael Mayes will sing the title role, and Maria Zifchak is Mrs. Lovett.

Performed in English with English supertitles

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

This production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is sponsored by Gas South.



All Performances: Pre-show fine dining
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$42.40 for Sun brunch

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Friday, June 15: Young professionals enjoy a pre-show cocktail hour + ticket to the show
$40 for Under 40

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All Performances: Students with ID may purchase discount tickets two hours in advance at the Cobb Energy Centre
$25 – 35 per seat

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Get the Feeling of the Show

Total time estimate: 2 hours 50 minutes


Music and Lyrics by STEPHEN SONDHEIM
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
Premiere Date: March 1, 1979

As the audience enters, an organist sits at a gigantic organ and plays funeral music. A drop depicting the social structure of nineteenth century is hung on the stage. Two men dig a grave at the front of the stage. A police warden enters and urges the diggers to hurry. Two workmen enter and pull down the drop. A shrill factory whistle is heard.

A man steps forward and invites the audience to attend the tale of Sweeney Todd. As the company begins to outline Sweeney’s dark tale, coordinated stage elements support the storytelling, hinting at the gruesome deeds yet to come (“The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”).

Act One
We find ourselves on the London docks. Anthony Hope, a young sailor, and Sweeney Todd enter. They both express their feelings about being back in London. Anthony is genuinely happy to be back in the city, but Todd’s response is full of grim irony (“No Place Like London”). While Todd thanks Anthony for saving his life at sea, a ragged, crazed Beggar Woman appears and begs for money; she offers sexual favors in return. She thinks she recognizes Sweeney, but he fends her off. Anthony inquires about Sweeney’s circumstances, worried that he has no place to go now that they are in London. Sweeney dismisses his offer of money. He tells Anthony that, if he needs him, he can find him around Fleet street.

Sweeney travels to find Mrs. Lovett’s Pie Shop and stands outside the building, gazing at it. He enters and sees Mrs. Lovett chopping suet and flicking flies off the trays of pies with a dirty rag. Excited to have a customer, she offers him a pie, but she recognizes that they are disgusting. She apologizes and explains that times have been hard and meat is hard to come by (“The Worst Pies in London”). Sweeney asks why she doesn’t rent the room above her shop if times are so tough. She replies that no one wants it because of the awful thing that happened there. Mrs. Lovett then recounts the fate of Benjamin Barker, a foolish young barber who was shipped to Australia by an evil judge. The Judge coveted the Barber’s pretty young wife, Lucy. Once the Judge and his Beadle had Barker removed, Lucy was left alone to care for her one-year-old daughter, Johanna. The Judge and Beadle invited her to a party at the Judge’s mansion, got her drunk and then raped her in the midst of a masked ball (“Poor Thing”). When Sweeney Todd shouts in anguish, Mrs. Lovett realizes that he is Benjamin Barker.

Demanding to learn the fate of his family, Barker hears that his wife Lucy took arsenic and that Judge Turpin adopted his daughter. Todd swears to take revenge on the Judge and the Beadle. Mrs. Lovett then brings him his razors, which she has kept hidden away for all these years; Todd is thrilled to be reunited with his razors, and Mrs. Lovett is thrilled to be reunited with Todd (“My Friends”).

The scene shifts to Judge Turpin’s mansion, where Johanna is imprisoned. She calls out to the caged birds of a passing bird seller, imploring them to share their secret for singing so sweetly when they, too, are kept captive (“Green Finch and Linnet Bird”). Anthony appears on the street, sees Johanna and instantly falls in love with her (“Ah, Miss”). Suddenly, the Beggar Woman appears and tells Anthony that he is standing in front of Judge Turpin’s house and should beware of trespassing. Anthony buys a bird for Johanna. He calls to her and presents the bird (“Johanna”). They stand, absorbed with each other, not noticing the approach of Judge Turpin and the Beadle. The Judge orders Johanna into the house. The Beadle cautions Anthony to stay away and strangles the bird as a warning.

Meanwhile, in St. Dunstan’s Marketplace, a painted caravan announces the presence of Signor Adolfo Pirelli and his baldness-banishing miracle elixir. Tobias, Pirelli’s simple-minded assistant, beats a tin drum to attract a crowd (“Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir”). Todd and Mrs. Lovett are among them. Although the crowd responds to Tobias’ pitch, Todd and Mrs. Lovett begin a slander campaign against the elixir, and people demand their money back. Tobias tries to distract them, but to no avail. Pirelli arrives and silences the crowd, demanding to know who denies his excellence as a barber. Todd steps forward and challenges Pirelli to a shaving contest. Todd gets the Beadle to judge the match and, being of superior skill, wins easily (“The Contest”). Todd and Pirelli then have a tooth-pulling contest, which Todd also wins (“Contest II”). The Beadle is very impressed and gets the address of Todd’s shop, promising to appear soon. When the Beadle thinks that he recognizes Todd, Mrs. Lovett assures him that this is not possible. The company explains how Sweeney methodically plotted his revenge (“The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”).

Judge Turpin is in his quarters while Johanna sews in an adjoining room. Unable to control his desires for Johanna, the Judge holds a Bible and whips himself, praying (“Johanna”). When he is done, he visits Johanna and announces that he plans to marry her to keep her safe from the venal young men of the street.

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Pre-Performance Talk

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Familiarizing Yourself with the Story

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How is an Opera Staged?


Actors first audition for roles up to a year in advance, or for more experienced artists, directors also invite them to play a role.


Most of the rehearsals are held in our rehearsal hall, and not the actual theatre. The conductor begins orchestra rehearsals about a week and half before opening night. They have four rehearsals with the conductor, and then the singers are added into the mix.

Sets & Costumes

The Atlanta Opera Costume Shop alters the costumes to fit our singers. Sometimes they do have to make costumes if there aren’t enough, or if there is nothing that fits, etc. Once the sets are in place, the cast begins rehearsing at the theatre. The Opera production staff works with staff at the theatre to get all of the lighting and technical aspects of the production together.

Sitzprobe & Dress Rehearsal

The orchestra comes together with the singers in a special rehearsal called sitzprobe. There are no costumes during the sitzprobe, this is mainly to hear the voices with the orchestra. There is a piano dress rehearsal, when the singers rehearse in full costume for the first time so they can get used to wearing them. Finally, all of the pieces are put together for two full dress rehearsals leading up to opening night.

Characters & Cast

Sweeney Todd

The anti-hero bent on revenge who dispatches his victims in his barber chair.

Michael Mayes

Baritone Michael Mayes has been praised for his “powerful” voice and “arresting stage presence.” He is well known for his critically acclaimed portrayal of Joseph De Rocher In Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking.

Mrs. Lovett

Sweeney Todd’s business partner who makes and sells meat pies made from his victims.

Maria Zifchak

Mezzo-soprano Maria Zifchak will sing the role of Mrs. Lovett for the first time. Later this season, she returns to the Met Opera as Annina in a new production of La traviata.

Anthony Hope

A young sailor who helps Todd return to London; in love with Johanna.

Joseph Lattanzi

Baritone Joseph Lattanzi is gaining notice for his “robust vocalism,” and “Undeniable star potential.” He recently led the world premiere cast of Fellow Travelers.


A spritely girl, full of innocence and constantly yearning for freedom. Todd’s long-lost daughter and Turpin’s ward.

Vanessa Becerra

Soprano Vanessa Becerra is a recent graduate of the Domingo-Colburn Stein Young Artist Program at LA Opera, and has been hailed for her “glorious soprano voice.”

Judge Turpin

A lecherous public official who portrays himself as a sanctimonious authoritarian. He takes advantage of his position and his responsible for imprisoning Todd.

Tom Fox

Seasoned baritone Tom Fox has worked at most opera houses around the world and is regularly celebrated for his magnificent character work and “tour-de-force” performances.

Beggar Woman

A deranged woman who harbors a dark, surprising secret.

Leah Partridge

Soprano Leah Partridge has received consistent praise for her intelligent and compelling interpretations of opera’s most beloved heroines, and has been hailed for her “lovely presence and shining voice.”


Stephen Sondheim

American composer Stephen Sondheim was born on March 22, 1930, in New York City. After early practice at songwriting, his knowledge of musical theater was influenced by master lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, who served as a mentor. Sondheim’s contributions to West Side Story and Gypsy in the 1950s brought him recognition as a rising star of Broadway. Known for the startling complexity of his lyricism and music, his major works for the theater also include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park With George and Into the Woods.

His parents, Herbert and Janet (née Fox) Sondheim, worked in New York’s garment industry; his father was a dress manufacturer and his mother was a designer. They divorced in 1942 and Sondheim moved to Doylestown, Pennsylvania with his mother. He began studying piano and organ at a young age, and he was already practicing songwriting as a student at the George School.

In Pennsylvania, Sondheim became friends with the son of Broadway lyricist and producer Oscar Hammerstein II, who gave the young Sondheim advice and tutelage in musical theater, and served as a surrogate father during a time of tumult. In his teens, Sondheim had penned a satire about his school, the musical By George!, which he thought his mentor would love and thus asked for feedback. Hammerstein in fact thought the project needed tons of work and offered honest criticism, which Sondheim would later see as invaluable. Sondheim also worked as an assistant on 1947’s Allegro, one of Hammerstein’s theater collaborations with composer Richard Rodgers, with the experience having long-lasting implications on the young composer’s approach to his work.

Sondheim attended Williams College, where he majored in music. After graduating from the school in 1950, he studied further with avant-garde composer Milton Babbitt and moved to New York City.



Timothy Myers

American conductor Timothy Myers enjoys a career that encompasses a wide breadth of opera and symphonic repertoire, as well as a continued commitment to quality long-term relationships with institutions and artists.

Noteworthy recent engagements have included concerts with the North Carolina Symphony and Baltimore Symphony, Adams’ Doctor Atomic and R. Strauss’ Capriccio with Curtis Opera Theatre, a Lyric Opera of Chicago debut conducting the Rising Stars Concert, and the workshop of Ricky Ian Gordon and Lynn Nottage’s commission for the Metropolitan Opera, Intimate Apparel.

In 2016 Myers made his European debut with a highly acclaimed production of Barber’s Vanessa at Wexford Festival Opera, where he returns in 2017 to lead a new production of Jacopo Foroni’s rediscovered Margherita, the first performances since its 1848 premiere.

Also in the 17/18 season Myers continues his long affiliation with Houston Grand Opera conducting Bernstein’s West Side Story; a debut with Florida Grand Opera leading his first Salome; and Samson et Dalila in concert for his return as a guest conductor at North Carolina Opera.



Albert Sherman

Mr. Sherman has garnered praise for his stylistic versatility and carefully crafted productions of opera, operetta, and musical theater for companies across the United States.  Recently he made his European debut directing the world premiere of the Marilyn Monroe opera Happy Birthday, Mr. President for Volkstheater Rostock. As a resident stage director for over 30 seasons at New York City Opera, he directed critically acclaimed productions of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Mozart’s Don GiovanniLe Nozze di Figaro, and Die Zauberflöte; Verdi’s La Traviataand Falstaff; Donizetti’s Don Pasquale; and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.  In addition to his work at City Opera, Sherman has directed productions for a number of other companies such as Wolf Trap, Cincinnati, Portland, Kentucky, Florentine (Milwaukee), Phoenix, Sarasota, Columbus, Dayton, and Tulsa. He has also guest directed at Manhattan School of Music, Boston University, Academy of Vocal Arts (Philadelphia), Mannes School of Music, New York University and New World School of the Arts (Miami). Sherman assisted Harold Prince on the NYCO productions of Candide, Sweeney Todd and Weill’s Silverlake. Additionally he assisted Scott Ellis and Susan Stroman on the company’s Drama Desk Award-winning production of A Little Night Music telecast on PBS. Mr. Sherman is a recipient of the School of Music Distinguished Alumnus Award from Boston University College of Fine Arts.