BWW Feature: Tony Nominee Jeff McCarthy to Re-Create Acclaimed Portrayal of SWEENEY TODD In 40th Anniversary Production At Noorda Center
Tony Award nominee Jeff McCarthy will step in to replace previously announced Will Swenson in the title role in Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece musical thriller SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET in a co-production by The Noorda Center for the Performing Arts and Utah Repertory Theater Company onstage at Utah Valley University Oct. 24-Nov. 9.
Tony-nominated for creating the role of Officer Lockstock in the original production of "Urinetown," McCarthy has played numerous additional Broadway lead roles, including the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast," the Grinch in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," Terry in "Side Show" and Pirate King in "The Pirates of Penzance."
"We are thrilled and honored that Jeff is able to join us for what is shaping up to be a truly remarkable 40th anniversary production of SWEENEY TODD," said Stephen Pullen, dean and artistic director of UVU's School of the Arts. "He's an extraordinarily gifted and generous artist at the very top of his craft, and the reviews he received for previous incarnations of the demanding role of Sweeney Todd are stellar."
Of his performance in Chicago's Barrington Stage Company production, Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote: "He emotes earnestly and sings beautifully. And he has moments of delicious chemistry with his leading lady."
"Jeff McCarthy is simply the best Sweeney since George Hearn who sang the title role during the run and initial tour of the original production," according to another Barrington Stage review. "McCarthy has now made the role his as he throws himself into the story with a depth of energy and emotion I haven't seen on stage in years. His acting, his singing, his timing are wonders to behold."
Swenson was forced to withdraw from the production due to his casting in a to-be-named Netflix TV series.
"I apologize for this crummy timing with all of my musical-loving heart," Swenson said, adding he is "heartbroken" that he is "prevented from coming out to my home state to do an amazing show with an amazing group of people."
"Of all the lousy timing to get a big break!," Swenson said. "Sweeney Todd is a role I've dreamed of playing ever since I first heard the score when I was a kid. When [Director] Tim Threllfal offered me the role, I jumped at the chance. I think I even joked on the phone: 'This will be great! As long as I don't get a cool part on a big new TV show...' That's exactly what's happened and the reason I'm not able to come out and play."
In the pivotal role of Mrs. Lovett, the production will feature Jacquelyne Jones, who has starred in acclaimed Chicago productions, including her Joseph Jefferson Award-winning role as Mrs. Lovett, the meat-pie baker and diabolical partner of Sweeney Todd (the "Jeff" Award is a regional award akin to the national honors of a Tony Award). Jones just received her second Jeff Award nomination for her role in "The Spitfire Grill." Jones, a former UVU musical theater student, also received the Outstanding Performance by an Actress Award from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for her role in UVU's staging of "Next to Normal in 2014."
Time Out Chicago raved of her Mrs. Lovett performance: "Jacquelyne Jones radiates a keen intelligence that's only sharpened by her moral flexibility. Jones sings the part well and brings both a spark-plug intensity and just a hint of sweetness. Despite the two of them murdering a lot of people and baking them into pies, you almost want them to get away with it, if only for her sake. It's a crucial ingredient to any production of 'Sweeney Todd.' Otherwise it's just a blood-soaked fairy tale."
Helming the production is Tim Threlfall, who has directed 13 productions at Tuacahn Amphitheatre in St. George, Utah, including the regional premiere of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and the American premiere of "Chariots of Fire" on stage. Previously, Threlfall served as the Artistic Director for Seattle Civic Light Opera and Northwest Summer Playhouse, as well as Education Programs Coordinator for Seattle Children's Theatre.
A leader in the Utah theater community, Anne Puzey has been selected as music director. Puzey has overseen the musical portion of many acclaimed productions, including for Hale Centre Theatre, Westminster College, The Egyptian Theatre Company and Utah Rep. She has worked with Broadway luminaries Will Swenson, Jason Robert Brown, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, Kate Baldwin, and Pasek and Paul.
Nearly 40 years ago, the tale of the bent-on-revenge barber sliced its way into the canon of musical theater history. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, SWEENEY TODD won numerous awards including a Tony for Best Musical and Britain's Olivier for Best New Musical. It has since enjoyed numerous revivals, in theater and concert stagings, as well as opera productions, and a film adaptation directed by Tim Burton.