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Penn State Thespian Society Presents ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street’

Following its performance of “The Addams Family” in the fall semester and its “MasquerAIDS” benefit concert this past February, the Penn State Thespian Society returns to present its latest production, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

Based on the 1970 play of the same name by Christopher Bond, the musical first opened on Broadway in 1979. The eponymous character Sweeney Todd was first featured in a Victorian story titled “The String of Pearls.” The music and lyrics featured in the musical adaptation are written by Stephen Sondheim.

The story follows barber Sweeney Todd, who was unfairly exiled from his home and family after being framed by the corrupt Judge Turpin. Seeking revenge and a space to open a new barber practice, Todd finds a partner in crime in Mrs. Lovett, the owner of a meat pie shop. Together, the two run cohesive businesses that have the people of London cheering, “bloody good!”

“You don’t really know what it’s like to put on a show like this until you’re in the thick of it,” said first-time director Katie Walker. “I really feel like we pushed the limit with a lot of parts of this show, and I just hope people can see that.”

Walker continued to express her pride and appreciation for the effort put in by her fellow thespians. Between the cast and the crew, endless amounts of hard work and dedication go into a production as elaborate as “Sweeney Todd,” and they hope that is evident in the final product.

The show itself is a colorful yet sinister production. Haunting music, thematic lighting, and three-dimensional characters are just a few aspects of the musical that will have attendees on the edges of their seats. The dark, moody undertone of the story is balanced with bits of humor and vulnerability.

“It’s a story about revenge, 100%,” said Peyton Thiem, who plays Mrs. Lovett. “Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the music for this show, is so acclaimed for this music for how complexly it makes us think about these themes.”

Muggs Leone, who plays Sweeney Todd, echoed Thiem’s thoughts about the writer of the production’s soundtrack. Leone noted how special it is to perform Sondheim’s music after his recent passing, especially during the week of his birthday.

“In preparing for the role and watching his videos, I really got a great appreciation for him.” Leone said.

Since taking a break from putting on productions during the pandemic, members of the Penn State Thespian Society have enjoyed being able to work on and off the stage again.

“We’re a student club, so it hit us hard,” Thiem said. “Getting bigger and better every time, I think, is really important.”

The Thespian’s production of “Sweeney Todd” will be performed at Schwab Auditorium this week on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. There will also be a matinee performance at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Tickets for the show can be purchased at the HUB, at the door, or reserved online. Tickets cost $12 but are discounted to $4.98 for students and $4.99 for children. Tickets are cash only.

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About the Author

Megan Dougherty

Megan Dougherty is a junior majoring in English from Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania. She loves making music, consuming the maximum amount of coffee recommended by the FDA, and overanalyzing Taylor Swift lyrics. Follow her on Instagram @meganedougherty to see her three to four posts a year.

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