Cap & Bells Revisits Sondheim with ‘Sweeney Todd’

Award-winning musical-turned-movie closes drama group’s 82nd season

Monday, April 12, 2010

PHILADELPHIA (April 12, 2010) -- Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a musical thriller about love and revenge, will close the 82nd season of Saint Joseph's University’s Cap & Bells Dramatic Arts Society. The show opens Wednesday, April 21 and runs through Sunday, April 25.

Renee Dobson, M.F.A., associate professor of fine and performing arts and Cap & Bells’ co-artistic director, chose the show in part to celebrate Sondheim’s 80th birthday, which was March 22. Coincidentally, this year also marks 10 years since the group last performed the show. “Cap & Bells has a strong history of doing Sondheim and Shakespeare,” she said. “We’ve had great success performing works from other artists, but there’s a reason we revisit them every so often: they’re the best at their respective fields.”

The show follows Sweeney Todd, formerly known as Benjamin Barker, a barber who returns to London 15 years after being wrongly imprisoned and seeks revenge on the judge who imprisoned him and assaulted his wife.

Sweeney Todd, which opened on Broadway in 1979, won that year’s Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Book (by Hugh Wheeler). It has enjoyed more than a dozen professional productions, tours and revivals in the United States and London and was adapted into a 2007 movie featuring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as Todd and Mrs. Lovett, respectively.

The title role will be played by senior Nick Virginio, and Mrs. Lovett will be played by freshman Veronica Polce. Dobson sees the show as a challenge for both her veterans and the young performers. “We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores in this show, and by doing this show, they’re prepared for whatever we choose to do next year. They won’t come across something as challenging as Sweeney Todd very often.”

The production will feature a 10-piece, partly professional orchestra conducted by Douglass Lutz, and an elaborate set rented from the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, but Dobson is most excited to see the cast perform. “Being in rehearsals for this show has been so rewarding, because I’ve watched the performances evolve as the actors began to understand their roles, and once they have that down, it’s a phenomenal show,” she said.

The show is bloody, but Dobson encourages young people to see the show at the discretion of their parents. “Sondheim is art, and this is a classic tale, so kids who are interested in theatre can really benefit from seeing it,” she said.

Sweeney Todd runs April 22-24 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 25 at 2 p.m. at Bluett Theatre, Post Hall, on Overbrook Ave. near 56th Street. Tickets are $16 for general admission, $9 for all students and SJU faculty and staff and $5 for senior citizens and children under 12. To reserve tickets, call 610-660-1181. For more information on the show or Cap & Bells, visit


Media Contact

Jeffrey Martin, Office of University Communications,, 610-660-3223


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