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Stephen Sondheim Gives Blessing for Heavy Metal SWEENEY TODD in D.C.


With Stephen Sondheim's pemission, Landless Theater Company is set to bring an even edgier 'SWEENEY' to D.C.

Speaking with The New York Times, Landless' producing artist director, Andrew Baughman, confirmed that Sondheim had given the company the go-ahead to stage a "Prog Metal" edition of the famous musical at the Undercroft Theater this summer.

"I think the jump to prog-metal orchestration is going to be pretty natural because 'Sweeney' is pretty 'metal' to begin with," Baughman said. "The idea of a rock 'Sweeney' has been brewing forever."

In order to get permission to "rescore" the work, Baughman said he wrote a "Hail Mary type letter" to Sondheim's agent - and surprisingly, was given a thumbs up.

"Yes, I did indeed give them my O.K.," Sondheim told The Times, "on condition that they don't cut anything or change the order of things without my express permission. Since I believe that what keeps theater alive is its openness to reinterpretation from generation to generation, I look forward to seeing (and hearing) what they do."

Though no creative team is set to tackle the reworking of 'SWEENEY,' Baughman is confident it'll come together swiftly with Sondheim on the project's side, who offered to attend rehearsals should the theater company desire.

"I imagine Mr. Sondheim shares our goal to make theater accessible to young and diverse audiences, and agrees that 'Sweeney Todd' has the potential to really excite a new audience," he said.

Set in Victorian London, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" tells the story of the eponymous barber who seeks vengeance on what he sees as a merciless world by murdering his customers and, with the help of his landlady, the romantically inclined Mrs. Lovett, bakes their bodies into meat pies, which are fed to London's avid and unknowing populace. Sondheim's score pays homage to the music of Hollywood composer Bernard Hermann. Highlights include "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd," "Not While I'm Around," "A Little Priest," and "Pretty Women."

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler, Sweeney Todd first opened on Broadway at the Uris Theatre on March 1, 1979, directed by Harold Prince and starring Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury. The show received eight Tony Awards in 1979--including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score--as well as 11 Drama Desk Awards and the Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical. It has entered the mainstream through several revivals, productions in opera houses, and the 2007 Tim Burton film adaptation starring Johnny Depp.

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