Posts filed under 'Sweeney' Article on Sweeney Todd!

This is a translation of the article from

Sweeney Todd Production still

Photo by Gunther D. | (c) 2012

In the intimate yet cosy space of Prague’s Divadlo Na Pradle, on Thursday, July 28, 2012 took place an event of great importance. The Czech premier of the classic American musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”. It is quite simply the most important event of the summer, which would stand out even in the regular season, and it is our pleasure to report that this opportunity is not to be missed.

The production of “Sweeney Todd”, as with any production of the work of the “solo” artist Stephen Sondheim is a very big deal for the local Czech audiences. Everyone who reads these pages will know that he wrote the lyrics for “West Side Story”. You could also see his lyric in the recent production of “Gypsy” in Plzen. But the musicals where he wrote both the music and lyrics, as opposed to the rest of the world theater scene, are practically unknown to Czech audiences, even though in America he is considered the founder of the modern musical and there is a theater named after him on Broadway. The last production in Czech was the production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” in 1968 at Divadlo ABC, which was translated by Jana Kvapilova and Jan Werich and which we unfortunately must consider almost an archaeological excursion to uncover details about (at the Theater Institute there are a few reviews, some materials and photographs as well as the Czech translation for those who want to take a closer look). But apart from that, until this July, there hasn’t been one production of Sondheim’s solo work in a long 44 years!

The dramaturgically challenging piece is not being produced by a large theater, but, surprisingly, by the small company Prague Playhouse, which is focused on producing theater for English speakers. The production of “Sweeney Todd” is their largest production to date and from the start was full of a passionate, international team which also included Czech and Slovak artists. While the entire production had only a very small budget, including donations from patrons, that fact is almost invisible to the audience.

The performance is given in the original English, which is good in this instance: the audience can become acquainted with Sondheim’s crystal clear poetry together with the genius and in places almost operatic music without the barriers or compromises which would need to be taken if the text was translated into Czech. Nevertheless, you don’t have to be afraid: the performance is accompanied by Czech subtitles, translated by Milan Malinovsky (who also translated the Slovak production of the cult musical “Rent” by Jonathan Larson), which offer an exact and as subtitles go, playful translation of the text. (Just a note: as you will probably notice, Mrs. Lovett starts to use the informal “you” with Sweeney fairly early even though in the English she is saying “Mr. Todd” which would indicate the formal “you”).

Even though the musical is based on a version of the oft told trope, where the main theme is a hunger for revenge, this version of the story is probably best known from the stylized and somewhat shortened film version by Tim Burton. The energetic director, theater world-traveller Steve Josephson has taken the work back to its roots (which Tim Burton with his uncompromising visual effects had removed): right back to black comedy.

Mr. Josephson’s version of the story is played in a graveyard by the victims of the Demon Barber, so even they (with one exception) are the undead inhabitants of the graveyard. It is a story told retrospectively. The undead concept then allows the beginning of the stylization going all the way to the grotesque, which most of the performers play with gusto. The concept is well served not only by Brian Caspe in the title role, but by the excellent Caryn Stringer as Mrs. Lovett as well as the noteworthy Milan Malinovsky as the villain – Judge Turpin. And the Czech players aren’t lost in it either. Mr. Josephson’s choreography helps many of the scenes, especially those with humor and the group numbers. It is simple, but in many moments it helps make a point of the situation.

The set design, making good use of a turning set system (and the “Demon Chair” is also put to good use), allows for lightning quick scene changes in addition to adding to the impression of the bustle of the city because all of the stage crew are in costume. Simple and functional, many other theaters could learn from this.

Behind the turning set, we can sometimes catch a glimpse of conductor Emmanuel Placier guiding a 10 piece orchestra made up of international players.

To be sure, we could write several paragraphs about the the technical mistakes (the sound was “troublesome” almost throughout) during the performance, including the fact that for about the first quarter of an hour there wasn’t the right atmosphere. The talented company took a long time to warm up and might have had opening night jitters. To that, the person in the know puts it in the drawer labeled “it will get ironed out in the performances” and takes it as a fact of life in the theater that it’s a part of the theatrical organism. But in this instance the mistakes were so minor that they were completely overcome by the overall experience.

Allow me a small sidebar: Steve Josephson is in Prague to work on a project of decidedly different parameters: he will work as a choreographer on the new project from the Landa’s – “Key of Kings” at Divadlo Broadway with a big budget and ensemble. But Steve likes such contradictions. He like’s Landa’s music and has worked with with the married and creative pair over a year. Maybe they will use his rich experience to help with the new rock opera to succeed.

Why not say it outright: that my “theater lover’s heart” was struck and in this case I went beyond “critical thinking” without an internal struggle. Czech theater history can finally cross “Sweeney Todd” and one of the “required Sondheim” pieces off the list of productions that are missing from the stage. It would be wonderful if it was not for the first and last time. And we hope that Prague Playhouse chooses more such ambitious projects in future years. They are definitely in demand.

Remember, Sweeney Todd will play in Divadlo Na Pradle for seven more shows: 13th and 14th of July, the 18th through the 20th of July and the 28th and 29th of July. Tickets are for the reasonable price of 350 Kc (300 for students) and you can buy them through the official pages of the Prague Playhouse or at Bohemia Ticket.

Some practical advice in conclusion: wheel chair users, bring someone to help you to the theater. There are several stairs leading into the theater. And the second thing (and this for “walkers” as well), if you sit on the side of the balcony, those seats belong in the category, as they nicely put it in London, “restricted view”, or in other words the entire stage is not visible which takes away from the enjoyment of the piece.

July 15th, 2012

Great review from! just published a really wonderful review of Sweeney Todd. The review is in Czech (we’re working on getting a translation of it) but some highlights:

  • This is the first time Sondheim has been performed in the Czech Republic since Jan Werich produced “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” 44 years ago!
  • This is the best show on this summer and would be among the best even if it was during the regular season
  • What the Playhouse did with a small budget and a lot of hope is something that larger companies haven’t even attempted and you would never know how little was spent on the production
  • Caryn Stringer is excellent as Mrs. Lovett and the entire company is very well cast and capable.
  • The movement of the set and choreography are simple, tasteful and add to the production and the understanding of such as a whole
  • The Czech subtitles make it so that the experience is worthwhile even for Czech speakers.

Tickets are still on sale for the remaining 7 shows: book now at our online portal

July 11th, 2012

Off and Running – Sweeney Todd’s First 3 Shows!

Well, we opened Sweeney Todd on Thursday to a packed house and a standing ovation! There will be more photos from the performance later (there are some photos from the dress rehearsal — we did not have all the makeup and hair — here).

We now have a break in our performance schedule until July 13 and are feverishly selling tickets!

Here are some audience comments from the first three shows:

“It was absolutely brilliant – the singing, acting, directing, scenery. Congratulations.” – Valerie Levy

“I organised a party of 5 to attend last night’s performance and we all agree that the presentation was fantastic! You must be thrilled with it.” – Sean O’Sullivan

“Congratulations to you and especially Caryn Stringer who I, having seen 8 different Lovetts in ten different productions over the years, will rank her up in the top 3. Why she’s not in the West End somewhere is a mystery.” – Paul Margulies

“Recently, we saw 3 different shows in New York. Your collective performance and musical ability equalled anything we saw there. The individual performances by the leads was admirable but we also were especially impressed by the ensemble cast.” Cheryl Caspe

“na Vašem představení jsem byl se svojí matkou, která moc anglicky neumí a přesto bylo Vaše představení tak skvěle hrané a připravené do detailů, že si odnášela nezapomenutelný zážitek. Naše poděkování Vám patří i za starost o námi objednané lístky. Do divadel chodíme často, ale ještě se nám nic podobného nestalo, aby přišla zpráva o uložení lístků na pokladně. Díky za starostlivost i za silný umělecký zážitek. Vaše představení doporučíme všem svým známým, protože by byla škoda nevidět hrát herce s takovým nasazením a nadšením. O velice příjemné atmosféře nemluvě. Ještě jednou veliké, upřímné díky a mnoho dalších hereckých i životních úspěchů.” – Jakub Cadil

(translation: I went to your show with my mother, who doesn’t really speak English and despite that, the performance was so wonderfully played and prepared in detail that she had an unforgettable experience. We want to thank you as well for taking care of us even during the ticket ordering process. We go to a lot of theater and I’ve never had it happen that I get an email confirming that I have tickets waiting for me at the theater. Thank you for the devotion and the strong artistic experience. We are recommending your show to our friends because it would be a shame not to see actors play with such a setting and passion, to say nothing of the pleasant atmosphere in the theater. A big and heart felt thank you and we wish you much success in art and life.)

Don’t miss this show!

July 3rd, 2012


We would like to thank all of our sponsors for supporting the Prague Playhouse and Sweeney Todd. Our fundraising campaign on Kickstarter was an overwhelming success and the money raised will go a long way towards helping put on Sweeney Todd.

If you would still like to contribute to the company or the show, please visit our membership page and click on one of the membership levels to make your pledge.

For a complete list of sponsors, please visit

Thanks again to all that sponsored the show! We couldn’t do it without you!

June 22nd, 2012

Attend The Tale Of SWEENEY TODD: Starts June 28!

Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street opens on June 28 (less than 2 weeks away)! The show features a live orchestra, a large ensemble and amazing performances from professionals from all over the world. This is truly not to be missed! There is more information on the show as well as links to order tickets at the Sweeney Todd Website. You can also join us on Facebook!

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, this musical is one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. This is the first time it will be shown in Prague and there will only be 10 performances! Don’t wait to get tickets.

Steve Josephson, our director who has come from California to stage the show, has created a magical atmosphere on stage. It is sure to give you chills. Set in a graveyard, the story is told by the ghosts of Sweeney’s victims, all fighting to impart the message: To seek revenge may lead to Hell, but everyone does it…

Brian Caspe and Caryn Stringer head up the cast as Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett. Jan Tenkrat and Veronika Bellova play the young enginues Anthony and Johanna. Karel Korsa plays Tobias, Milan Malinovsky plays Judge Turpin and Jamie King plays the Beadle. Lucie and Petr Novotny round out the cast as the Beggar Woman and Pirelli. Ensemble members David Bousa, Hana Kadlecova, Jana Machova, Viktoria Matusovova, Michael Pitthan, Eric Sammons, Tereza Trnkova, Boris Wilke and Monika Ziskova provide amazing support to the show with outstanding musicality and presence. For full biographies, please visit

Emmanuel Placier, who provided the music for last year’s A Christmas Carol, is conducting and doing the musical direction. Ruth Siller and Abby Kraemer head up our technical side with Stage Management and Technical Direction respectively.

SWEENEY TODD, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

June 28 – 30, July 13 – 14, 18 – 20, 28 – 29 all at 19:30

Venue: DIVADLO NA PRADLE, Besedni 3, Mala Strana, Prague 1 (near Ujezd tram)
Tickets are available at the theater, or you can order them at
Tickets are also on sale at Bohemia Ticket (Na Prikope 16)

For more information visit

2 comments June 18th, 2012

Sweeney Todd! Sneak Preview May 30!

The entire Prague Playhouse team is ecstatic to announce our upcoming production of Stephen Sondheim’s SWEENEY TODD, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The production, which opens June 28, 2012 and runs until July 29, 2012, is our most ambitions project yet. It will feature a live 10 piece orchestra and 20 actor/singers performing one of the most challenging and beautiful musicals ever written.

Over half the cast are Czechs from the professional musical theater. Steve Josephson, a veteran musical theater director, choreographer and performer has come from California to stage the show. This is a multi-cultural production in the true sense of the word.

And we want you to join us for a SNEAK PREVIEW at Belushi’s Bar (Odboru 4, Prague 1) on May 30th from 18:00-21:00. For just 100 Kc we will buy you a drink while you can listen to songs from the show performed by our company (including the orchestra). We will also have some wonderful prizes for you to bid on in a silent auction (see our list of sponsors below!).

If you’re excited to hear the music performed by our outstanding company, if you might be out of Prague during the summer and miss the performances, if you want to be among the first to experience a part of this show, then come out to see us! This Sneak Peak is one night only!

2 comments May 16th, 2012

Cast of Sweeney Todd Announced!

We are very excited to publish the cast of Sweeney Todd! The group is made up of fantastic singers and actors. There are some folks returning to the Playhouse: Jay DeYonker, Caryn Stringer and Jamie King appeared in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, Michael Pitthan, Monika Ziskova, Emmanuel Placier and Laura Strugar worked on A Christmas Carol.

And we can’t wait to share the talents of all of the new faces we’re bringing to the stage. Many of the Czech performers work professionally in musical theater, at Hudebni Divadlo Karlin, for instance. And they will blow you out of the water!

We’ll post more from rehearsals. In the meantime, feel free to browse the performers bios (we’ll be adding more soon!).

March 6th, 2012

Sweeney Todd Teaser!

I’m playing around with possible imagery for Sweeney. What do you think?


March 4th, 2012

Sweeney Todd Production Positions Open

We are currently looking for people to help On the upcoming production of SWEENEY TODD. We are looking for help with lighting, sound, marketing and fundraising. Most of the positions are volunteer positions but you will be working with a great group of theater folks. There is a large artistic team in place and everyone is super cool!

The show goes into rehearsals in mid march and opens in late June.

March 1st, 2012

Great Night of Auditions for Sweeney!

We had a great night at the auditions for our Summer production of Sweeney Todd. About 50 people came out to audition, both people that we’d seen and worked with before in projects such as Charlie Brown and Christmas Carol as well as a lot of new faces. About half of the folks that turned up were singers from local Conservatories and from the Czech musical theater scene. We’re going to have follow up auditions on Sunday, February 19.

If you didn’t get a chance to come out to the audition and would like to, you can come at 13:00 on the 19th. Please email for more details.

February 16th, 2012

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