× Upcoming Events About Us Donate Sponsors Past Events
Image for Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Dayton Opera

SWEENEY TODD: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
A Musical Thriller

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 Fyer, Mary Lea Johnson, Martin Richards in Association with Dean and Judy Manos

SWEENEY TODD is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI (www.mtishows.com).

Scenery and Costumes originally designed for Des Moines Metro Opera

Content Advisory: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street contains material which may not be suitable for all audiences. The production contains sexual content, violence, stage blood, gun shots, and death. Scenes depicting sexual assault and murder are highly theatrical but intense in nature.

Dayton Opera Chorus

Ron Anderson
Rachael Andrew Boezi
Alyssa Boldt
Guy Chambers
Carol Chatfield
Jarrod Davis
Anna Delaney
Tessa Fackelmann†
Gabrielle Flannery†
Aaron Gouge
Tifton Graves
Aaron J. Meece
Mark Mehlhope
Paula Dunn Powell
Megan Rehberg
Lorraine Rohrer
Carl Rosenthal†
Jennifer Shaffer
Anthony Sollenberger
Stephanie Voelker
Artega Wright†

† Artist-in-Residence



An organ plays funeral music and is abruptly interrupted by a shrill factory whistle. A man steps forward and invites the audience to attend the tale of Sweeney Todd. The rest of the company joins in, outlining Sweeney’s dark tale, hinting at the gruesome deeds yet to come.

Act I

It is 1845 and Anthony, a young sailor, has arrived home to London. He is accompanied by a man he rescued drowning off the coast of Australia, Sweeney Todd. As they disembark, they are accosted by a woman begging for alms who seems to recognize Sweeney. Anthony is thrilled to have returned to London but Sweeney is not—he tells Anthony the tale of a young barber who was sent into exile by a powerful man with designs on the barber’s beautiful wife. Sweeney enters a Fleet Street pie shop, owned by the energetic Mrs. Lovett. She bemoans the hard times and the scarcity of meat. Sweeney asks about the empty apartment upstairs, and Mrs. Lovett tells him about the barber, Benjamin Barker, who was falsely accused by Judge Turpin so that the Judge could get to Barker’s wife, Lucy. The Judge and Beadle Bamford then lured Lucy to the Judge’s house where he sexually assaulted her. Sweeney’s anger confirms what Mrs. Lovett had suspected—that he is indeed Benjamin Barker. Mrs. Lovett tells Sweeney that Lucy had poisoned herself, and that his daughter Johanna is now a ward of Judge Turpin. Mrs. Lovett returns a set of silver shaving razors to Sweeney, who vows to use them to get his revenge. In Judge Turpin’s house, Johanna sits at a window. Anthony happens to wander by and immediately falls in love with the beautiful young woman. Threats from the Beadle only strengthen his resolve to save her. Barber Signor Pirelli’s assistant, Tobias, hawks a miracle elixir that regrows hair. After exposing the elixir as a fraud, Sweeney challenges Pirelli to a shaving contest,which Sweeney wins easily. Beadle Bamford, who judged the contest, is impressed. Sweeney invites him to come in for a complimentary shave. Anthony, not knowing that Johanna is Sweeney’s daughter, asks the barber for help. He intends to rescue Johanna and wants to use the shop as a safe house. Pirelli arrives to pay Sweeney a visit. Mrs. Lovett takes Toby downstairs for a pie, and Pirelli drops his false accent and reveals that he used to be Benjamin Barker’s assistant. Rather than give in to blackmail, Sweeney kills Pirelli. Johanna is terrified because the Judge intends to marry her on Monday, but Anthony has a plan to help her escape. Meanwhile, the Beadle suggests that the Judge clean up a bit to be more attractive to Johanna and sends him to Sweeney Todd. As the Judge tells Sweeney about his impending marriage, Sweeney shaves him, enjoying the anticipation of his revenge. But before he can slit the Judge’s throat, Anthony bursts in and blurts out his plan to save Johanna. The Judge storms out, declaring that he will lock Johanna up and never come to the barber shop again. His revenge thwarted, Sweeney swears to kill as many people as possible, punishing the rich and corrupt and relieving the poor from their misery. Mrs. Lovett sees an opportunity: they can dispose of the bodies by using the meat for her pies, and a new enterprise is born.

Act II

Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop is now bustling, and Toby helps with customers. Sweeney has a new barber chair with custom modifications for disposing of his victims. When Anthony discovers that the Judge has locked up Johanna in the asylum, he gets Sweeney to help him plan an escape. Anthony will go to the asylum pretending to be a wigmaker looking for hair from the inmates. Seeing an opportunity to lure the Judge back to his shop, Sweeney writes a letter, warning him of Anthony’s plan, and that Anthony and Johanna could be captured at the barber shop. Toby has begun to suspect that there is something awry at the pie shop and tries to warn Mrs. Lovett. Mrs. Lovett sends him down to the bakehouse and locks him in. She returns upstairs to find the Beadle waiting; he has come to investigate the reported strange smells and smoke coming from her chimneys. Sweeney comes in and offers the Beadle his free shave. Toby is still in the basement when the Beadle’s body tumbles down, and he runs off. The asylum owner, Jonas Fogg, tries to stop Anthony from rescuing Johanna. She shoots Fogg, leaving the rest of the inmates to wander through the streets of London, as Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett search for Toby. Back at Sweeney’s shop, Johanna hides to avoid the beggar woman, and Anthony goes looking for Sweeney. When Sweeney arrives and finds the beggar woman in his parlor, he slits her throat. The Judge arrives, and Sweeney lures him into the chair, reveals his true identity, then kills him. Johanna comes out of hiding and barely escapes Sweeney’s knife. Mrs. Lovett struggles with the bodies in the basement. Sweeney arrives, and in the oven’s light finally recognizes the beggar woman as his long-lost wife, Lucy. For jealous love, Mrs. Lovett had let Sweeney believe that Lucy was dead. Sweeney shoves Lovett into the oven. As Sweeney holds the body of his murdered wife, Toby appears and slits Todd’s throat. Johanna, Anthony, and the police arrive.


The company reenters and claims to see the Sweeney in each of us. At the end, Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett express the moral of the tale.

Courtesy San Francisco Opera

A Note from the Director

Thanks, Sondheim

My father loved musicals, opera, and classical music. Every week he would go to the library and check out the latest releases (LPs, back then). Saturday mornings he would make breakfast, and we’d listen. I have the strongest memory of lying on the couch with the cast album of Company when I was 14, falling in love with the wit of the words and the endlessly fascinating music. I’d rush home from school every day and put on the album. I had to look up a lot of words, but the combination of those words and that music shaped who I am. Sondheim became my favorite. With each new work, I learned something new. Nine years later, completely hooked, I remember watching the Tony Awards so I could see live performances from the latest Broadway shows. I remember cheering when Sweeney took home the biggest prizes. I had to wait another 10 years to see a production, the second Broadway revival. By then, of course, I knew every word, but to see it live was shattering. In the rehearsal room the past few weeks, I’ve been that girl again, reveling in the wonder of what Sondheim created, fascinated by the characters, and drawn into the story telling. Funny, frightening, and sad, Sweeney Todd is above all, brilliant. Sondheim was indisputably one of the greatest musical theatre composers and lyricists of all time. He tackled difficult subjects head on and changed the course of what the genre would be. The theme of “man devouring man” is, unfortunately, timeless. In an age filled with death, greed, and chaos, Sweeney’s world mirrors our own. As our “everyman” finds the vengeance and salvation he seeks, we find catharsis in the end. There is a release that we can collectively feel,  something that only live performance can provide! I look forward to joining you in the theatre!

Kathleen Clawson,
Artistic Director, Opera; Dr. Ron Anderson and Robb Sloan-Anderson Chair