Chichester’s Festival 2011 closes with Sweeney Todd, the musical commonly acknowledged to be Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece, in a cast led by distinguished musical performer Michael Ball and Oscar-nominated actress Imelda Staunton.
Set in nineteenth century London and laced with Sondheim’s characteristically brilliant wit and dark humour, the musical depicts Sweeney Todd’s savage quest for justice and retribution after years of false imprisonment. Aided and abetted by the pie-shop owner, Mrs Lovett, he sets out to avenge the wrongs done to him and his family. Combining a gory sensibility with elements of English music hall, the production offers a fascinating portrait of a man driven to madness by injustice and grief.
Michael Ball plays Sweeney Todd. His theatre credits include Hairspray, Les Misérables, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Passion, Aspects of Love, The Woman in White and The Phantom of the Opera. He made his English National Opera debut as Hajj/Poet in Kismet and in 2005 he made his debut with the New York City Opera as Reginald Bunthrone in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience. Ball co-produced Chichester Festival 2010’s West End transfer of Love Story. He also has a successful recording career, and released his eighteenth album, Heroes, and completed a nationwide tour earlier this year.
Imelda Staunton plays Mrs Lovett. Her theatre credits include A Delicate Balance at the Almeida Theatre, the West End production of Entertaining Mr Sloane, Life x 3 (National Theatre and The Old Vic) and Guys and Dolls (National Theatre). Film credits include the Harry Potter series, Taking Woodstock, and the title role in Vera Drake, for which she received BAFTA, European Film and Venice Film Festival Awards, as well as an Oscar nomination. Television credits include Psychoville and Cranford.
John Bowe plays Judge Turpin. His credits include the West End production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Lady from the Sea and Heartbreak House (Almeida Theatre), Edward Bond’s Lear (RSC and European tour) and Saint Joan (The Old Vic).
Peter Polycarpou plays Beadle Bamford. He was last seen at Chichester in Festival 2010’s Love Story, which later transferred to the West End. His other credits include the West End productions of Les Misérables, Miss Saigon and The Secret Garden, Oklahoma! for the National Theatre, and the popular BBC sitcom, Birds of a Feather.
The cast also features Robert Burt, Luke Brady, Lucy May Barker, Daniel Graham, Gillian Kirkpatrick, James McConville and Simeon Truby. The ensemble includes Valda Aviks, Will Barratt, Josie Benson, Emily Bull, John Coates, Robine Landi, Brian McCann, Tim Morgan, Aoife Nally, Adam Pearce, Vincent Pirillo, Wendy Somerville, Anton Stephans, Kerry Washington and Annabelle Williams.
Stephen Sondheim’s credits as composer/lyricist include Road Show, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George, Company, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, Into The Woods and Assassins. He also wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy. His film credits include Reds and Dick Tracy, for which he won an Oscar. He has also received numerous Tony and Grammy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize.
Jonathan Kent’s credits include Chichester Festival 2010’s A Month in the Country. His recent work includes the National Theatre production of Oedipus starring Ralph Fiennes, and The Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne. Kent was joint Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre where his work included When We Dead Awaken, All For Love, Medea, The School For Wives and Gangster No.1. Other theatre credits include Le Cid, Mother Courage and Her Children and The False Servant, all for the National Theatre.
Design is by Anthony Ward whose credits include Festival 2011’s She Loves Me, ENRON (Festival 2010 and 09), Macbeth (Festival 07), Posh at the Royal Court, as well as West End productions of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Oliver! and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He has won a Tony Award for Costume Design for Mary Stuart, and Olivier Awards for the Set Design of Oklahoma! and the Costume Design of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, La Grande Magia and The Way of the World.
Choreographer is Denni Sayers whose credits include Don Giovanni (Glyndebourne), Ibsen’s Emperor and Galilean and Oedipus (National Theatre), Parsifal and The Flying Dutchman (ENO), Cyrano de Bergerac, Carmen, Paul Bunyan and The Bartered Bride (all for ROH).
Lighting Design is by Mark Henderson whose credits include A Month in the Country (Festival 2010), ENRON (Festival 2010 and 09, the Royal Court Theatre, West End, Broadway and tour), West End productions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Iceman Cometh, Copenhagen, Hamlet and The Real Thing (all also on Broadway), All My Sons, Mourning Becomes Electra, The History Boys and The Habit of Art (National Theatre).
The musical director is Nicholas Skilbeck whose credits include West End productions of Sister Act, Hairspray, Billy Elliott – The Musical, Mamma Mia! and Cats.
Orchestration is by Jonathan Tunick whose credits include Road Show, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Into the Woods, Passion, A Chorus Line, The Color Purple and Nine.
Sound design is by Paul Groothuis whose credits include Festival 2011’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead; His Dark Materials, Edmond, Henry V and A Streetcar Named Desire (all for the National Theatre), Anything Goes, My Fair Lady and All My Sons (National Theatre and West End), as well as the West End productions of Children’s Hour and Flare Path.
Sweeney Todd is at Chichester Festival Theatre from 24 September – 5 November, 7.30pm (except Press Night Thursday 6 October, 7.00pm), matinees 2.15pm. Tickets £10 – £28 (University of Chichester Previews), £13 – £33 (Previews/Press Night) and £14 – £38 (Evenings/Matinees) are available online at www.cft.org.uk or from the Box Office on 01243 781312.
Age guideline: 12+
Join Jonathan Kent in conversation on how his production of Sweeney Todd has been staged at Chichester. This free pre-show talk is on Tuesday 4 October at 6.00pm in the Steven Pimlott Building.
After Words – join some of the Sweeney Todd cast and creative team for a post-show discussion on Thursday 13 October.
Release issued by: Chichester Theatre