Sweeney Todd Producers and Unions Strike Deal about Actor-Musicians

News   Sweeney Todd Producers and Unions Strike Deal about Actor-Musicians Broadway's upcoming Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street revival has struck a deal regarding its cast of actor-musicians with Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, according to Variety.

John Doyle, who staged the London run, directs the new staging to begin previews Oct. 3 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre toward a Nov. 3 opening night.

The unique staging casts actor-musicians to retell the story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and company. A cast of ten (with no ensemble) perform on instruments ranging from flute, glockenspiel, trumpet and clarinet to piano, cello, accordion and double bass in addition to their acting and singing duties. (Cerveris is slated to play guitar while LuPone takes on the tuba.)

Local 802 — along with Actors' Equity Association — had been concerned about the actor-musician's compensation for the double duty as well as the effect onstage instruments would have upon the show's orchestra. A panel — the same which was originally set up following the 2003 Broadway strike — will henceforth handle such special situations whereby actors will be playing musical instruments. Details are forthcoming, but the trade magazine reports that the Sweeney Todd actors will join the musicians union and the producers will pay a premium in addition to the actors' salaries.

More information on Local 802 and AEA can be found on the web at local802afm.org and actorsequity.org, respectively.

Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris (Assassins) will star in the title role opposite Tony Award winner Patti LuPone (Evita) as the lovable meatpie-maker Mrs. Lovett — her first Broadway musical role in 17 years — for the upcoming Broadway revival. Cerveris and LuPone will be joined in the ten-member ensemble by John Arbo (musician on Good Vibrations) as Jonas Fogg, Donna Lynne Champlin (Hollywood Arms, James Joyce's The Dead) as Pirelli, Manoel Felciano (Shockheaded Peter, Brooklyn) as Tobias Ragg, Alexander Gemignani (Assassins) as The Beadle, Mark Jacoby ( Man of La Mancha, Show Boat) as Judge Turpin and Broadway newcomers Diana DiMarzio (as Beggar Woman), Benjamin Magnuson (as Anthony Hope) and Lauren Molina (as Johanna).

LuPone has previously performed as Mrs. Lovett with the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and for the Ravinia Festival's Stephen Sondheim celebration. For Ravinia, she also appeared in the composer-lyricist's A Little Night Music and opposite her Sweeney co-star Cerveris in Passion, Sunday in the Park with George and the upcoming Anyone Can Whistle.

A Best Actress (Musical) Tony Award winner for her turn in Evita, LuPone was last seen in a musical on Broadway (ironically as Reno Sweeney) in the 1988 revival of Anything Goes — for which she was Tony-nominated. The actress has remained in the New York spotlight with appearances in the New York Philharmonic's Candide concert, the City Center Encores! run of Cole Porter's Can-Can, as well as non-musical turn for Broadway’s Noises Off, The Old Neighborhood, Master Class and her concerts Patti LuPone on Broadway and Matters of the Heart.

Cerveris won a Tony Award for his turn as Booth in the 2004 revival of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins. The actor has appeared Off-Broadway in Wintertime and Fifth of July and also earned a Tony Award nomination for his Broadway debut as the title role in The Who's Tommy. Other stage credits include Passion, Titanic and the title role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Tom Viertel, Steven Baruch, Marc Routh and Richard Frankel will present Sweeney Todd with the Ambassador Theatre Group (which recently co-produced a run with The Watermill Theatre at the West End's New Ambassador Theatre), Adam Kenwright & Tulchin/Bartner Productions for the production on Broadway.

Sweeney Todd features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler, drawing from the play by Christopher Bond (itself based on characters created by British journalist George Dibden-Pitt, who adapted his 1830s penny dreadful tale into a popular stage melodrama). The story follows a vengeful barber (Sweeney) in Victorian England and his neighbor (Lovett) who owns a pie shop that becomes popular due to a surplus of fresh meat.

The work made its Broadway debut Feb. 6, 1979 starring Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury — both earned Tony Awards for their turns. Harold Prince directed the 1979 Tony Award winner for Best Musical. In 1989, an intimate, smaller-cast revival of Sweeney Todd was produced on Broadway and Tony Award-nominated for Best Revival. Susan H. Schulman directed stars Bob Gunton (as Sweeney) and Beth Fowler (as Mrs. Lovett). The work was also seen in 2002 as part of Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christine Baranski.

Tickets for the upcoming Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd are currently on sale to American Express cardmembers. The pre-sale lasts through Sept. 4, at which point tickets go on sale to the public. For more information, visit www.sweeneytoddonbroadway.com.