Celebrities who have starred in 'Sweeney Todd' on Broadway and beyond
Stars of stage and screen have lined up to play the deliciously dastardly barber and baker in Stephen Sondheim's musical, now in its third Broadway revival.
No matter how you slice it, roles don’t come meatier or juicier than Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett, the vengeful barber and daft pie baker Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler cooked up for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett are experts in homicide — and recycling the evidence into pastries for unsuspecting Londoners. With the gorgeous and gory 1979 musical now back on Broadway, Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford are the latest celebrated duo to join the Society of the Razor and Rolling Pin (our unofficial name).
It’s an association filled with Tony and Oscar winners, a Sir, a Dame, and (fittingly) a former Scissorhands. Look back on all the stars baked into the history of Sweeney Todd, including familiar faces in supporting parts alongside the leads.
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1979: Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury
They’re the original deadly duo, and they each won a Tony for their peerless star turns. Before slicing and dicing as the demon barber, Cariou notched Tony nods for the musicals Applause and A Little Night Music. Lansbury had already won Tonys for Mame, Dear World, and Gypsy before wigging out as Mrs. Lovett. Doubtless the role informed her work on Murder, She Wrote.
1980: George Hearn and Dorothy Loudon
Hearn, who stars in the filmed Broadway production of Sweeney Todd opposite Lansbury, and Loudon joined the cast in March 1980. He’d racked up five previous Broadway credits. Loudon, a comedian who could pour on the pathos, won a Tony as the horrible Miss Hannigan in Annie before replacing Lansbury as Lovett.
1980: Dennis Quilley and Sheila Hancock
The London-set Sweeney Todd was bound to hit that city eventually, and it did so with this pair. A member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Quilley was known for his varied work in plays, musicals, and TV shows. Dame Hancock, an Olivier Award winner for Cabaret in 2007, was nominated for the prize five other times, including for her turn as Mrs. Lovett.
1989: Bob Gunton and Beth Fowler
When Sweeney Todd got its first Broadway revival in 1989, Bob Gunton and Beth Fowler had big oven mitts to fill. And they did so, both earning Tony nominations of their own. Known for playing authoritarian figures, Gunton earned a Tony nod as Juan Peron in Evita and later made an indelible movie mark as the corrupt warden in The Shawshank Redemption. Fowler is best known nowadays for her role in another criminal story: as Sister Jane Ingalls on the TV series Orange Is the New Black.
2005: Michael Cerveris and Patti LuPone
English director John Doyle’s stripped-back Broadway revival began in London in 2004. Here, actors doubled as musicians — including its Tony-nominated leads. Cerveris, who won Tonys for Assassins and Fun Home, was a guitar-strumming Sweeney. LuPone, a theatre supernova with Tonys for Evita, Gypsy, and Company, tooted the tuba as Nellie Lovett. Manoel Felciano, now in the first Broadway revival of Parade, also scored a Tony nod as the young apprentice Tobias.
2007: Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter
How about a shave? Depp’s previous work as Edward Scissorhands may have prepared him for his cinematic role as the barber bent on vengeance for his lost wife and daughter. Carter’s off-kilter edge served her well as Lovett. Director Tim Burton’s movie also included Alan Rickman as the merciless Judge Turpin and Sacha Baron Cohen as the cartoony con man Pirelli.
2012: Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton
Ball, a British stage star known for Aspects of Love and The Woman in White on Broadway, and Vera Drake Oscar nominee Staunton, played the demon barber and daft baker for six months in London's West End. The show first had a hit run at the Chichester Festival Theatre in the fall of 2011.
2014: Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson
Clutching a rolling pin with a glint in her eye, Thompson proved in her New York stage debut that, yes, the Sense and Sensibility and Howards End Oscar winner sings! Ditto Sir Terfel, a Welsh opera star famous for wrapping his burly voice around Mozart, Strauss, and Wagner. They starred in a NY Philharmonic concert production of Sweeney Todd and reprised their roles a year later at the London Coliseum.
But they were far from the only stars in the New York staging. Audra McDonald popped up as the Beggar Woman, Some Like It Hot’s Christian Borle played Pirelli, and Jay Armstrong Johnson, now in Parade, was the lovestruck Anthony.
2017: Jeremy Secomb and Siobhán McCarthy
In this site-specific Off-Broadway production, British stage stars Secomb and McCarthy reprised their lead roles from a London premiere. Audiences watched the musical at a working pie shop, where savory pastries (filled with veggies or chicken, not priest or poet) were served. Norm Lewis and Bad Cinderella’s Carolee Carmello later took over the leads in the production
Fun fact: Australian actor Jamie Jackson played Judge Turpin in that production, and he now reprises the role in the 2023 Broadway revival.
2023: Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth
The first season of the Apple TV+ series Schmigadoon! spoofed a bunch of Golden Age Broadway musicals, and its second season focuses on the darker fare of the '70s. Think Cabaret, Chicago — and, of course, Sweeney Todd. Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth's respective characters might be named Dooley Flint and Miss Codwell, but they're clear stand-ins for the barber and baker. Chenoweth even sports a Lansbury-esque hairdo to prove it.
Cumming and Chenoweth are both stage and screen vets, and Tony-winning ones at that. Cumming won for playing the Emcee in Cabaret, and Chenoweth won for playing Sally in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, though she remains best known for originating the role of Glinda in Wicked.
2023: Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford
Groban is a singing sensation behind hits like “You Raise Me Up,” but he's proven his versatility: His Broadway debut in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, earned him a Tony nomination.
Ashford, a comedic whiz, won a Tony for You Can’t Take It With You and headlined the CBS sitcom B Positive. They “deliver exactly what they’re best at,” reads New York Theatre Guide’s four-star review.
This revival also features Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo as Tobias and The King and I Tony winner Ruthie Ann Miles as the mysterious Beggar Woman. This starry cast's deliciously dark singing and acting will leave you saying, "God, that's good!"
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