Masella, Not Prince, to Direct New York City Opera's Sweeney Todd

News   Masella, Not Prince, to Direct New York City Opera's Sweeney Todd
It will be Arthur Masella, not Harold Prince, who will direct the upcoming production of Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece, Sweeney Todd.

A Prince spokesperson confirmed to Playbill On-Line that Masella will direct the New York City Opera production, which will play March 5-28. According to the spokesperson, it will be "Harold Prince's production staged by Arthur Masella." Prince staged Sweeney Todd originally on Broadway in 1979 — he won a Tony for his work — and later at New York City Opera in 1984. For the 20th anniversary NYCO production, Eugene Lee will design the sets, with costumes by Franne Lee, original choreography by Larry Fuller, lighting design by Ken Billington and sound design by Abe Jacob.

Although New York City Opera would not confirm casting, Playbill On-Line has learned that Timothy Nolen will play the knife-wielding Sweeney at several performances [March 5, 6 (evening), 10, 13 (matinee), 20 (matinee) and 27], and West End star Elaine Paige is scheduled to play the pie-baking Mrs. Lovett at most shows. Complete casting is expected shortly.

As an assistant to Harold Prince, Arthur Masella has worked on a dozen Broadway and opera productions, including Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Evita, Diamonds and Willy Stark. He also directed Prince's production of The Phantom of the Opera in Stockholm, Sydney, Hamburg, Edinburgh, Amsterdam and Basel. His other directorial credits include Regina, The Sorcerer, The Music Man, Your's Anne, Ghostdance, Back to Back, Casanova, La Boheme, Of Mice and Men, I Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana, Rappaccini's Daughter and Amahl and the Night Visitors.


Sweeney Todd originally 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. A recent major production of the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler work, which is based on a version of "Sweeney Todd" by Christopher Bond, was the Kennedy Center mounting, which starred Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christine Baranski. A concert presentation of the musical, directed by Lonny Price and led by Tony winners George Hearn and Patti LuPone confirmed the strength of Sondheim's score, which boasts such tunes as "The Worst Pies in London," "Johanna," "Pretty Women," "A Little Priest," "By the Sea" and "Not While I'm Around."

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