A Cut Above: Sweeney Todd Director Slices Sondheim in a New Light

Tony Awards   A Cut Above: Sweeney Todd Director Slices Sondheim in a New Light "If you are going to revive something that had such a wonderful original production, then it's important, I think, to find a new way," explained Tony Award nominated director John Doyle — who brought his actors-as-orchestra style to Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd.

Doyle explained that, when setting himself apart from Hal Prince's original production, the difference was not just his theatrical technique. "That isn't just about the instruments, it's about the presence of everybody all the time, the small number of people [in the cast], the way the story connects with the audience. Those are the key things in it." Though he was apprehensive about Broadway audiences accepting his vision, he felt solace in knowing he had, at least, one fan. "This audience hadn't seen anything like this before. And not only that, but doing that to the master [Sondheim], you know, the big boy of American musical theater, was a huge risk. He'd already seen the production [in London], so I did come [to Broadway] with the knowledge that he was pleased. And if you could please any author, it's fantastic; if you can please Mr. Sondheim, in terms of the status that he has in this country in the musical theatre, that's fantastic."

Finding actors who can not only sing and act, but play an instrument was certainly more of a casting task than usual for the production. This will obviously be a major concern if the show tours. "I think there's talk at the moment about Sweeney touring. That's an intention. When that will begin, where it is [going, I don't know], but I certainly know that is in discussion at the moment. It's so interesting how many people who have come out of the woodwork who can suddenly [act, sing and play an instrument]."

"What's exciting about it, though, is it means that the kind of performer that gets to be part of the work might not get cast in a production [like this] under other circumstances. Yet, [this theatrical technique] allows you to go against type — whatever that means — because types don't carry trombones."

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