Edmund Lyndeck, Original Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd, Dies

Obituaries   Edmund Lyndeck, Original Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd, Dies
 
Edmund Lyndeck, who originated the role of the evil Judge Turpin in Stephen Sondheim’s operatic tale of revenge, Sweeney Todd, died Dec. 14. He was 90. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Edmund Lyndeck and Jack Eric Williams in the original Broadway production
Edmund Lyndeck and Jack Eric Williams in the original Broadway production Martha Swope

Mr. Lyndeck was a college English professor who had acted in regional and stock theatre for more than a decade when he gave a remarkable performance in 1979 in the daring, musical "penny dreadful" Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. With black humor and genuine chills, the show told the story of a Victorian barber who methodically gets his revenge on the officials who shipped him off to jail on trumped-up charges. Chief among these is the nefarious Judge Turpin, who raped Todd’s wife and then took his daughter, Johanna, as a ward. Years later, Turpin is now planning to wed Johanna.

Mr. Lyndeck played the part with an oily self-importance and malevolence and lent his rich baritone to the songs "Pretty Women" (a melodic duet with Todd) and the disturbing "Johanna (Mea Culpa)," in which the Judge tried to control his wicked urges by whipping himself. The latter song was cut from the original production, but heard on the cast recording.

Sweeney Todd was not his Broadway debut. He was the gentle Rev. John Witherspoon, a Congressional delegate, in the original 1969 production of 1776. Later in the run, he took on the roles of Stephen Hopkins and Dr. Lyman Hall. In the national tour of the show, he played the meaty role of John Dickinson.

He also acted in a 1976 Broadway revival of Mrs. Warren’s Profession; Piaf...A Remembrance; the musical A Doll’s Life, based on characters in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House; the short-lived musical Merlin; the musical Grand Hotel; and the play Artist Descending a Staircase.

Sondheim used him again in the small role of Cinderella’s Father in the fairy-tale musical Into the Woods. He later assumed the larger role of the Narrator and Mysterious Man. Edmund Lyndeck was born Oct. 4, 1925, in Bayonne, NJ.

Regionally, he was most active in Pennsylvania. He played Scrooge in A Christmas Carol as the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera every year from 1992 to 2007.

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