BWW Previews: Tony Nominee Will Swenson in SWEENEY TODD at Noorda Center/Utah Rep Staging at Utah Valley University
Tony nominee Will Swenson will play the lead role in Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece musical thriller SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET in a coproduction by The Noorda Center for the Performing Arts and Utah Repertory Theater Company onstage at the Utah Valley University campus Oct. 24-Nov. 9.
A Utah native and grandson of Utah theater legends Ruth and Nathan Hale, founders of Hale Centre Theatre Sandy and Hale Center Theater Orem, Swenson is widely recognized for his performance in the smash hit film "The Greatest Showman." Swenson is currently playing McPhee in "Nantucket Sleigh Ride" at New York City's Lincoln Center and was recently seen on Broadway as Earl in "Waitress" and Javert in "Les Misérables." Along with his Tony nomination for playing the role of Berger in "Hair," he was also nominated for Drama Desk and Drama League Awards for his performance. In Utah he has performed the lead roles of Starbuck at a Hale Orem benefit production of "110 in the Shade" and most recently as Dr. Frank N. Furter in "The Rocky Horror Show" at Pioneer Theatre Company.
And in the pivotal role of Mrs. Lovett, the production will feature Jacquelyne Jones, a former UVU musical theater student, who has starred in acclaimed Chicago productions, including her Jeff 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.) In addition, Jones 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."
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 as director is Tim Threlfall, head of the Music Dance Theatre Department at Brigham Young University, 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. Prior to joining the BYU faculty, 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 Pacek and Paul.
Nearly 40 years ago, the tale of the bent-on-revenge barber sliced his way into the canon of musical theater history. With music and lyrics by 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 by Tim Burton.
This hauntingly chilling story explores abuse of power, responsibility and revenge in this brilliantly conceived morality tale that continues to resonate with 21st-century audiences. Returning to London after 15 years of prison, Sweeney Todd seeks vengeance by systematically slicing people's throats with a razor, while Mrs. Lovett disposes of the bodies by baking them into meat pies. SWEENEY TODD combines melodrama, murder -- and the worst pies in London -- with a sumptuous, instantly recognizable score.
Truly operatic in scope, SWEENEY TODD achieves enormous theatrical impact through its powerful music and larger-than-life characters. Seeing and hearing this work with live orchestra accompaniment, and sung by Swenson and Jones, two heralded actors in the leading roles, will be a truly unforgettable experience.