The student news site of Pierce College in Lakewood, Washington.

‘Sweeney Todd’ takes bloody revenge in upcoming play

This infamous story follows psychotic barber’s killing spree in 19th-century London

February 28, 2017

From its initial publication in 1846, “Sweeney Todd” has gone through many stages, including an upcoming appearance on the Pierce College stage.

“Sweeney Todd” is a dark legend, filled with emotion, suspense, and frightfully powerful musical numbers. 

Set in 1846 London, Todd returns from a 15-year prison sentence with a vendetta for the judge who wrongly prosecuted him and tore him away from his wife and baby.

The hunt begins with Todd setting himself up in his old barber shop and getting to work plotting his bloody revenge.

The story of the murderous barber has controversial origins, including theories the play draws inspiration from a real serial killer in the early 1800s. None of the theories have been proven, but author Peter Haining’s search for proof of the original Todd’s existence resulted in multiple books on the subject.

The tale of Todd started in a penny dreadful, illustrated stories in cheap booklets for the Victorian public, and was written in 12 parts by Edward Lloyd.

“The psychopathic barber’s story proved instantly popular: it was turned into a play before the ending had even been revealed in print,” said Victorian historian LM Jackson. 

The play had become well-known throughout England by the 1860s, lasting more than 100 years until hitting mainstream masses of American Broadway in 1979.

Charles Wolff plays the bloody barber Todd and Jazmine Herrington plays Mrs. Lovett, the broke baker. 

Richard Buckley, who has worked in theaters on Orcas Island, Western Washington University and other schools, directs the musical. He has 24 years of directorial experience, with productions such as “The Sound of Music” and “Godspell.” When he was offered the chance to direct “Sweeney Todd” he said he “jumped at the chance,” because “the story is well-crafted and amazing.”

The Pierce College rendition of “Sweeney Todd” is Friday and Saturday, and March 3-4 at 7 p.m. in the Black Box Theater on the third floor of the Cascade Building. Tickets are free for Pierce students and $5 general admission.

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