|Sweeney Todd in Concert: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Press Release|
Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s "Sweeney Todd" Comes to PBS in Spectacular Halloween Night Special
Concert Features Patti LuPone, George Hearn and The San Francisco Symphony and Chorus
"The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" Seeks Revenge on All Hallow's Eve
San Francisco, California -- On an evening when trick-or-treaters search for goodies from their neighbors, public television viewers will be treated to a thrilling, bawdy, moving and passionate musical from the renowned composer, Stephen Sondheim. The San Francisco Symphony and Chorus, joined by top musical stars in the featured roles, performed a "staged concert" of "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" at Davies Symphony Hall in July 2001. Part Broadway musical, part operetta, KQED Public Broadcasting in San Francisco will present what a San Francisco Chronicle music critic called a "stunning concert performance of a masterpiece." The performance debuts for viewers nationwide as Sweeney Todd in Concert: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street on Wednesday, October 31 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).
Featuring Tony Award-winning actors and Broadway superstars Patti LuPone as Mrs. Lovett and George Hearn as Sweeney Todd, the electrifying performance follows on the heels of the acclaimed New York Philharmonic concert performances of last year. Sweeney Todd in Concert: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street also reunites Phantom of the Opera principals Lisa Vroman -- who portrays Todd's daughter -- and Davis Gaines, a sailor, who have forbiddingly fallen in love with one another. Neil Patrick Harris (television's "Doogie Howser, M.D.") as Tobias Ragg and Victoria Clark as the Beggar Woman also star. Tenor John Aler, baritones Stanford Olson and Timothy Nolen, and the acclaimed San Francisco Symphony Chorus also join the cast. Lonny Price, who wrote, directed and starred on Broadway in the Tony-nominated A Class Act this past season, directs the performance and the PBS special. Rob Fisher, most recently the music director of the revival of Chicago, conducts.
One of the great works of American musical theater," Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" tells a twisted and wicked tale of revenge and love. Years ago, the corrupt and lecherous Judge Turpin ousted Sweeney Todd, a celebrated barber, from London. The Judge seduced Todd's wife, trumped up false charges sending Todd to prison and then took custody of Todd’s infant daughter. After returning to London to make Turpin pay for his deeds, Todd is befriended by Mrs. Lovett, a pie shop owner who is "creative" in finding ingredients for her culinary delights. Together, the duo of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett go on a rampage of evil deeds in the name of profit and revenge.
"If I had to label "Sweeney Todd," I would say it's an operetta, a black operetta, a dark operetta," noted Sondheim during a press conference in July for the San Francisco performances. "I can't imagine how else you write "Sweeney Todd" except with a lot of music because it's a thriller. I want a lot of music to be continuous because it ("Sweeney Todd"] is a horror movie. And the way movies scare you is through continuous music."
"It's a supreme art form -- opera," states LuPone. "And to be able to share the stage and to sing with opera singers and to sing with the symphonic orchestra, is a thrill beyond compare."
"This was a historic performance of one of Stephen Sondheim's greatest works, yet only a few thousand people were able to experience it during just three performances," noted John Boland, executive vice president and COO of KQED. "Now millions of public television viewers across the country will have a front row seat, free of charge and without commercial interruption. We’re delighted to be working in partnership with PBS, EMK Productions and the San Francisco Symphony to bring this unique musical and theatrical event to television."
"We are very proud and excited that KQED and PBS will broadcast our acclaimed performances of 'Sweeney Todd,'" said Brent Assink, executive director of the San Francisco Symphony. "Reaction to the concerts in San Francisco was truly overwhelming, and now viewers across the nation will have a chance to experience the magical combination of Stephen Sondheim's masterful music, the stellar ensemble cast and the San Francisco Symphony."
PBS will host a Web site for the television special (pbs.org/kqed/demonbarber) where visitors will find expanded biographies on the performers, a history of the character of Sweeney Todd, a look at the British penal system and creative recipes for meat pies.
Sweeney Todd in Concert: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a co-production of KQED San Francisco and Ellen M. Krass Productions. Executive producer is Chase Mishkin; Mort Swinsky and Ellen Krass are co-executive producers. Krass' previous productions include "Follies in Concert," "You Can't Take it With You," "The Kathy and Mo Show" and the Emmy Award-winning HBO movie, "A Lesson Before Dying." Danny McGuire is director of production and John Boland is executive-in-charge for KQED.
Funding for Sweeney Todd in Concert: The Demon Barber of Fleet Streetis provided by the Sarah P. and William R. Hambrecht Foundation, Kat Taylor and Tom Steyer, and the KQED Campaign for the Future Program Venture Fund. The San Francisco Symphony performances of "Sweeney Todd" were presented by the San Francisco Arts Commission/San Francisco Symphony Summer in the City series.
KQED operates KQED Public Television 9, the nation's most-watched public television station (in prime-time), and Digital Television 30, Northern California's only public television digital signal; KQED Public Radio 88.5 FM, the most listened-to public radio station in the nation; the KQED Education Network, which brings the impact of KQED to thousands of teachers, students, parents and media professionals through workshops, seminars and resources; and kqed.org, which harnesses the power of the Internet to bring KQED to communities across the Web.