Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd will be performed this weekend with the NSO
After a year with an empty stage, Wolf Trap’s Filene Center will offer a summer full of great performances in 2021, and this weekend will present Stephen Sondheim’s infamous “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
Directed by Emma Griffin, and under the baton of Roberto Kalb, conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, the musical tells the tale of the notorious Sweeney Todd, an unjustly exiled barber who returns to London seeking vengeance against the lecherous Judge Turpin, who framed him and ravaged his young wife.
His taste for revenge finds Todd in cahoots with Mrs. Lovett, a resourceful proprietress of a failing pie shop, above which, he opens a new barber practice. The barber’s thirst for blood inspires a secret ingredient to Lovett’s meat pies and they soon become the talk of the town.
“Sweeney Todd is undeniably one of the greatest pieces of sung theatre written in the 20th century,” said Griffin, who is directing at Wolf Trap for the first time. “It is extraordinarily both entertaining and moving and sophisticated and musically, a very thrilling evening in the theater. It has been a joy to work on.”
Nicholas Newton, a bass-baritone member of the Wolf Trap Opera, takes on the role of Judge Turpin and believes the audience will have a grand time seeing this production.
“People will definitely be walking away singing some tunes,” he said. “We’ve all spent the last year watching virtual things, but there’s nothing like live theater, and this is truly special and it touches you in a way that no other medium can.”
Newton has been a part of the Wolf Trap Opera summer season for a few years, and enjoys coming back to Vienna to perform. He last performed here in “The Orpheus Project” in 2020.
He’s spent the pandemic as a Young Artist member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, performing virtually.
“We put on two virtual productions a month, and in May, I was able to do my first live, outdoor show with an audience, so I’ve been really privileged to be able to continue my training,” Newton said.
Preparations for “Sweeney Todd” began in early June, and he noted the show is magnificent and he’s having a lot of fun taking on the villainous role.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve played a villain,” he said. “The thing about Judge Turpin is that he cares about himself the most. And he likes to hear himself talk and is used to things going his way. He enjoys his life because of that.”
Newton is happy to be back with colleagues from all over the country, many of whom he’s worked and collaborated with before.
“As young artists, getting to perform lead roles at such big institutions and on such a big stage, these opportunities are not necessarily abundant,” he said. “They really take care of you here and I really feel like they want the best for their artists. Wolf Trap brings in really great people to collaborate on with both sides—on and off the stage. And I just always have fun when I come here.”
This is Newton’s first time performing in “Sweeney Todd” and he feels it’s an excellent show for people to kick off their Fourth of July weekend.
“I’m not sure how many live performances people in Virginia have been able to see thus far, but I’m excited about the possibility that this will be someone’s first production since the pandemic; I think that’s really special,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be performing at this moment and I’m so happy that I get to enjoy what I love so much to do.”
“Sweeney Todd” also stars Wolf Trap Opera’s Thomas Glass as Sweeney Todd, Megan Esther Grey as Mrs. Lovett, Alexandra Nowakowski as Johanna Barker, Jonathan Bryan as Anthony, Wayd Odle as Beadle, Conor McDonald as Tobias, Christopher Bozeka as Adolfo Pirelli and Shannon Jennings as the Beggar Woman.
“Our cast is so good; to hear these voices unleashed on this music, telling this story, it’s so satisfying,” Griffin said. “I really think the audience who comes to this is lucky.”
“Sweeney Todd” will run July 2 and 3 at 8 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit wolftrap.org