- Majestic Marketing
Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd...
The sensational story of the demon barber of Fleet Street has kept audiences on the edges of their seats throughout the ages—but where did it all begin?
Motifs of murder victims being baked into pies goes back even to legends of St. Nicolas and Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, but the most basic form of the tale that would become the hit musical was recorded as early as the mid-17th century by Pehr Lindeström. The Swedish traveler wrote in his diary that while in Calais, he heard tell of a murderous barber and baker duo who dispatched unwary customers by means of a trap door beneath the barber chair and turned their remains into meat pies.
Similar grotesque rumors lived on into the Victorian era. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in England, increasing numbers of people left rural villages and towns for large cities and went from growing and preparing their own food and knowing the local farmer, baker, and butcher to buying their food from strangers. This provided the opportunity for urban retailers to adulterate their products, sometimes with dangerous substitutes, in order to make more money, and anxieties about dubious food preparation fueled the spread of ghastly urban legends.
In his novel Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens alluded to the tales: the character Tom Pinch is grateful that his own "evil genius did not lead him into the dens of any of those preparers of cannibalic pastry, who are represented in many country legends as doing a lively retail business in the metropolis".
Despite the popularity of these accounts and numerous adaptations of the stories that claim to be based in fact, there's no solid historical evidence supporting the existence of the criminals described therein.
The first time the name Sweeney Todd became associated with the urban legends was in the penny dreadful The String of Pearls: A Romance, a serial that ran in Edward Lloyd's magazine The People's Periodical and Family Library, issues 7–24, published 1846 to 1847, though it is unknown exactly who authored it.
Christopher Bond premiered his play Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in 1973, and introduced a more sympathetic aspect to the character of Sweeney Todd. Bond established Todd’s tragic backstory as Benjamin Barker, a wrongfully-convicted exile who, in contrast to the original Sweeney’s opportunistic and financially-motivated murders, is spurred to exact revenge upon humanity after finding out what’s become of his family. Bond’s play ends with Sweeney unwittingly killing his wife, then Mrs. Lovett, and being killed in turn by Lovett’s assistant, Tobias Ragg.
The musical adaptation of Bond's play by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. A Musical Thriller (1979), began on Broadway in 1979. It won multiple awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical. We're so excited to bring this show to The Majestic stage and showcase the incredible talent of our community members.