Sweeney Todd – the Victorian Melodrama to run at Wilton’s Music Hall

The tale of Sweeney Todd returns to East London with Sweeney Todd – the Victorian Melodrama.

Running from 25-29 April at Wilton’s Music Hall, Opera della Luna will present a new production of the penny dreadful melodrama – not to be confused with Stephen Sondheim’s musical.

The story of Sweeney Todd first appeared on the stage in London in 1847 at Britannia Theatre, Hoxton, in a melodrama, ‘The String of Pearls’, based on a popular “penny dreadful” serialised story. 

Theatres like the Britannia at that time had large permanently employed orchestras, and the first ‘Sweeney Todd’ would have been performed with a score of orchestral music. Opera della Luna restores the musical element of story-telling with an orchestra of 10 musicians, and music penned by British opera composers of the Victorian age. 

Nicky Dwyer will play Sweeney Todd alongside Lynsey Dochert as Mrs Lovett/Cecily Maybush. The cast will also feature Caroline Kennedy (Tobias Ragg), Madeline Robinson (Johanna Oakley), Matthew Siveter (Jarvis Williams/Ben the Beefeater), Paul Featherstone (Rev. Lupin/Jonas Fogg) and Matt Kellet (Mark Ingestrie/Jean Parmine). The creative team includes Jeff Clarke, Artistic Director of Opera della Luna and conductor Toby Purser.

Jeff Clarke said: “‘Sweeney Todd’ had music when it was first performed, but all those scores have long been lost. When the Grecian Saloon (one of the many East End theatres that would have presented Sweeney) in City Road closed, its library of music went to the Drury Lane Archive now in the British Library.  Although it contains the music for a number of melodramas, ‘Sweeney Todd’ has not survived. 

“Both the Grecian Theatre and the Britannia Theatre in Hoxton, which commissioned the first stage version of ‘Sweeney’ permanently employed orchestras of 10-12 players. That is why we have commissioned a score for 10 musicians for our production. We have turned to theatre music of the period, or rather music by theatre composers of the period:  Michael William Balfe who wrote many English Operas for Drury Lane, and Julius Benedict who was resident Musical Director at Drury Lane and wrote a number of orchestral scores.  We are using themes from their works and integrating them into the production in the way that we see other music was used in melodramas of the time.”

Tickets are on sale at Wilton’s Music Hall

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📷 Main photo: Sweeney Todd - Wiltons Music Hall

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