Sweeney Todd is coming to Rugby as college students prepare to put on first major production in three years

The legendary production will be held over three evenings

The cast of Rugby College’s production of Sweeney Todd.
The cast of Rugby College’s production of Sweeney Todd.

The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is coming to our town as performing arts students at Rugby College prepare themselves a long-awaited return to the stage with their first major production in nearly three years.

With music and lyrics by the legendary Stephen Sondheim, the musical proved an instant hit when it opened on Broadway in 1979, captivating audiences and critics ever since.

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The story charts the tale of Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, who butchers scores of people with a straight razor in a twisted act of revenge against Judge Turpin - who had him wrongly arrested and transported to a labour colony.

Widely considered to be an heir to Bertolt Brecht's 'Threepenny Opera' - a gritty musical set in the streets of Dickensian London - Sweeney Todd rose to fame once again in 2007 when Tim Burton enlisted an all-star cast to create a film version - impressing the public and critics alike.

30 Level 3 students will be involved in the college production of Sweeney Todd, with performances taking place across three evenings in the Platform Theatre at the college from 16 to 18 March.

College tutor Hayley Glover will be director, with Henry Gallagher playing Sweeney Todd and Cailin Tite playing Mr Todd’s business partner and accomplice, Mrs Lovett.

Sondheim died in November 2021 and the college chose to present a production of Sweeney Todd to commemorate his life.

Henry Gallagher, 20 from Coventry, who will play Sweeney Todd, said: “It will be great to get out there. I’m really happy with the cast we have, we have so many talented people and it’s a great course to be a part of.

“I think the role of Sweeney is seen as a suffering hero, but I see him as more of a villain. It’s a really fun character to play and I’m looking forward to it.”

Cailin Tite, 17 from Daventry, who will play Mrs Lovett, said: “I have never cared more about a role than I have this. As soon as I watched Sweeney Todd I fell in love with Mrs Lovett – it’s a role you can go anywhere with and really make it your own.

“The show we did in June was impacted by Covid and, even though it was a great experience, it would have been even better with a full audience.

“This time it feels very ‘real’. We all care so much about the production and have worked really hard to put it together. We can’t wait for audiences to see it.”

Rugby College’s art department is supporting to create the set for the production, with students also supporting with directing scenes, production, hair, make-up and much more.

The art department is working with Ciaran Higgins, technician and main designer, on the set.

The college’s last major production was Chicago in 2019 – which attracting more 300 people from across Rugby over the three days. There was a small show put on in June 2021 but this was also impacted by Covid-19.

Ruth Ditch, dance lecturer for Performing Arts at Rugby College, added: “We have a really talented group of students at the college currently. Sweeney Todd is a challenging production but we think it’s definitely a challenge they are up to.

“It’s been really difficult for our students over the last couple of years, we’ve prepared and rehearsed for two different major productions and then been unable to put them on.

“Usually, by now, our second year students will have been involved in two major productions. Nothing beats on-stage experience, it’s so important to their development as performers.”

Performances will take place at 7pm from March 16 to March 18. Tickets are priced at £7.50 and £5 for concession tickets.

To pre-book tickets for the show email [email protected] and then cash payment will be required on the door.