Of all the plays in the 2016 Shaw Festival lineup, Alice in Wonderland is the most recognisable title to a general audience. But the clear second-place would be the new adaptation of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
2016 Shaw Festival's Headline Musical
Although its modern interpretations were cemented by the 1973 adaptation by Chistopher Bond, and most notably through the acclaimed 1979 musical composed by Stephen Sondheim, the character himself goes all the way back to penny dreadful stories in the 1850s. Despite multiple film and stage adaptations, the one most recognisable to the current generation would arguably be the 2007 Tim Burton-directed film with Johnny Depp as the titular murderous barber.
Shaw Production of Sweeney Todd
The Shaw Festival’s take on the Demon Barber of Fleet Street draws heavily from the original Sondheim production. Shaw Festival Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell has taken the helm as director of the play’s production – it being her last year as festival director, Sweeney Todd has become her way of going out with a bang.
Sweeney Todd is the big musical of the 2016 lineup. It’s a fairly faithful re-rendering on the Sondheim musical, and has the added bonus of orchestrations by the venerated Jonathan Tunick. Long-time Shaw alumni Benedict Campbell dons the role of Sweeney, and Jeff Irving as sailor Anthony Hope – both actors have performed in dozens of plays across Ontario and Canada, and are joined by a solid and fresh cast.
2016 Festival Theatre Headline Production
Sweeney Todd, along with Alice in Wonderland and the Oscar Wilde play A Woman of No Importance, form the three flagship plays of the 2016 Shaw Festival. Playing from July until October as the Festival Theatre, enthusiasts also have the opportunity to attend additional discussions in August to learn more about Sondheim’s oeuvre with Paul Sportelli, Music Director of Sweeney Todd and the Shaw Festival.
It’s a play certainly not to everyone’s tastes with its macabre themes and brutal spectacle, but it’s without a doubt the most distinctive and personable play in the Shaw line-up. By retaining the blend of comedy and horror that made earlier adaptations so appealing, this rendition will satisfy fans and has the chops to entice newcomers as well.
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