Performance Riverside, the California-based theatre company, will opens its 2002-2003 season with a production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd beginning Sept. 20.
The classic Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical, which was recently mounted at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, will star Norman Large as the "demon barber of Fleet Street." A Broadway veteran, Large appeared in the original Broadway company of Les Misérables as the Bishop of Digne, later playing Thénardier and Javert in that production. He also spent six years playing Monsieur André in the L.A. and San Francisco companies of The Phantom of the Opera, and he originated the role of Gus in the L.A. cast of another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Cats.
Playing opposite Large as the scheming Mrs. Lovett is Riverside favorite Debbie Prustman, who received a 2001 Robby Award for Best Ensemble Performance for her work in Riverside's mounting of Triumph of Love. Others in the Sweeney company include Roger Befeler as Anthony and Doug Carfrae as Judge Turpin.
Calvin Remsberg — The Beadle in the show's first national tour with Angela Lansbury — will direct the production. Remsberg also directed the 1999 Reprise! production of the Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical, which starred Kelsey Grammer and Christine Baranski.
About his choice of director, Performance Riverside's Executive Director and Producer Steven A. Glaudini recently commented, "I first saw Sweeney Todd at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 1981, and it was one of those defining moments for me where I realized what theatre could be. All of the elements of true quality theatre were there. It was incredible storytelling with larger-than-life characters acted by such notable performers as Angela Lansbury, George Hearn and Calvin Remsberg, with whom I had the pleasure of getting acquainted several years ago. When we were awarded the rights, he seemed like the obvious choice to stage our production. It's an amazing opportunity to be able to take advantage of Calvin's knowledge of this show. He learned it from the creators, working with Sondheim and the original director, Hal Prince. It's almost as though we're passing the torch onto a new generation of talent and audiences." Others on the creative team include Kay Cole (movement and dance) and Alan Everman (vocal direction).
Considered one of Sondheim’s masterpieces, Sweeney Todd premiered at Broadway’s Uris Theatre on Feb. 6, 1979, with a cast led by Len Cariou (Sweeney) and Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Lovett), who both nabbed Tony Awards for their roles. Harold Prince directed the production, which was awarded the 1979 Tony for Best Musical. A 1989 revival at Circle in the Square Theatre featured Beauty and the Beast’s Beth Fowler as Mrs. Lovett and former Evita star Bob Gunton as the man who returns to London to avenge the death of his wife. The critically acclaimed score boasts such tunes as “The Worst Pies in London,” “Johanna,” “Pretty Women,” “A Little Priest,” “By the Sea” and “Not While I’m Around.”
Sweeney Todd will play Performance Riverside — located at 4800 Magnolia Avenue in Riverside, California — Sept. 20, 21, 27, 28, Oct. 4 and 5 at 8 PM with 2 PM matinees on Sept. 22, 28 and Oct. 6. Tickets, priced at $21, $24 and $28, are available by calling the theatre's box office at (909) 222-8100. For more information, go to www.performanceriverside.com.
—By Andrew Gans