Hess is "on leave from the show to recover from vocal strain," according to production spokespersons. He is expected to rejoin headliner Judy Kaye on the tour Dec. 31. Understudy David Garry has performed in Hess' absence.
Gemignani temporarily takes over as Sweeney Todd at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre. The actor recently headed up the return of Les Miserables on Broadway (he was Jean Valjean) and will next appear in the upcoming revival of Sunday in the Park With George. Other credits include Assassins, Avenue Q, The Trapped Family Singers, Passion and South Pacific.
The Sweeney touring company began Aug. 30 with a stint at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater (it extended there through Oct. 14). The show next played Boston's Colonial Theatre (Oct. 23-Nov. 4).
Fleet Street residents of Broadway's recent Sweeney revival — including Lauren Molina, Benjamin Magnuson, Diana DiMarzio and John Arbo — reprise their roles for this run as Johanna, Anthony, Beggar Woman and Jonas Fogg, respectively. New to the cast are Keith Buterbaugh (as Judge Turpin), Benjamin Eakeley (The Beadle), Edmund Bagnell (Tobias) and Katrina Yaukey (Pirelli).
Kaye — who earned a Tony Award nomination for her recent turn in Souvenir — won a Tony for her work in The Phantom of the Opera. Other credits include Mamma Mia!, Ragtime and On The Twentieth Century. The actress filled in one week on Broadway in the Doyle staging while original star Patti LuPone was on vacation.
Hess served as standby on Broadway. Other credits include Annie Get Your Gun, Dessa Rose, Prodigal and Love in a Thirsty Land as well as the first national tour of Ragtime.
The tour stops continue as follows (subject to change):
Houston, TX: Hobby Center (June 3-15, 2008) For more information visit the official website at sweeneytoddtour.com.
The national tour is produced by Tom Viertel, Steven Baruch, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Ambassador Theatre Group, Adam Kenwright, Tulchin/Barnter/Bagert and Live Nation.
The recent Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd starred Tony Award winners Michael Cerveris (as Sweeney Todd) and Patti LuPone (as Mrs. Lovett). Director Doyle as well as orchestrator Sarah Travis took home 2006 Tony Awards for their work.
This new conceptual take on the tale of the vengeful barber is placed in the confines of an asylum where a distraught Tobias Ragg is imprisoned. Using only nine chairs, a ladder and a coffin on two wooden horses, on a stage assembled of wooden planks, ten actor-musicians re-create the characters and events of Victorian-era Fleet Street.
The Sondheim score (with the book by Hugh Wheeler from a Christopher Bond adaptation) is performed (in full view of the audience) by the acting company, who play instruments ranging from tuba, trumpet and clarinet to cello, accordion and bass.