Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street — storytelling at its best

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 6, 2024

By Jenny Hubbard

For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — Forget the bells and whistles. Piedmont Players’ production of “Sweeney Todd,” the musical thriller by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, is storytelling, pure and simple. Director Tod Kubo and musical director Drina Keen have chosen to keep the story “true to its original intention,” to do so, they’ve assembled a talented cast, many of whom are professionals in the business. 

Take Concord resident Will Lampe, who has wanted to do this show since he was in college and the original Sweeney Todd debuted on Broadway in 1979. Lampe plays Judge Turpin, Sweeney’s nemesis, and says that Kubo “has a great vision for the play and great ideas for how to stage it.”

Lampe is new to Piedmont Players, as is Gavin Henthorn, who was inspired to audition after being “awestruck” by PPT’s production of “Rent.” Henthorn has performed professionally in Washington, D.C. He and Drew and Wendy Weant, his neighbors, are the three cast members who reside in Salisbury.

Commuting from Clover, SC, is Rob Addison, who plays Sweeney Todd, the blood-thirsty barber set on avenging his wife’s death. Addison grounds his performance in the humanity of the character, even though Sweeney could easily be portrayed as a cartoon.

“Tod Kubo doesn’t want that,” Addison said.

Sweeney’s first line — “Here we go our separate ways” — is Addison’s roadmap.

“Sweeney has options,” he said, “But he chooses the way of revenge.”

Like her co-star, Lisa Schacher feels “privileged to be able to tell this story.”

To be telling it so soon after Stephen Sondheim’s death, she notes, makes it all the more special. She does not seem daunted by the task of taking on the role originated by Angela Lansbury and revived by the likes of Patti LuPone and Sutton Foster. To make Mrs. Lovett her own, Schacher studies the text and the lyrics rather than adopt someone else’s version of this complex, witty, pie-baking character. 

Piedmont Players first told this story in 1997. Directed by Reid Leonard, it starred Salisbury’s Becky Lippard, who will be grateful to be in the audience this time around. Mrs. Lovett, she said, has been the most thrilling role of her career, and also the most challenging: “Sondheim! All those stairs!”

Fun fact: her mother and aunt made the meat pies for the show.

The show plays on the Meroney stage from July 12-28. Running time, including the ten-minute intermission, is two hours and twenty five minutes. For tickets, go to piedmontplayers.com or call the box office at 704-633-5471.