Prologue

As the audience enters, an organist takes his place at a huge eccentric organ to the side of the stage and begins to play funeral music. Before a front drop depicting in a honeycombed beehive the class system of mid-19th century England two gravediggers appear, carrying shovels, and begin to dig a grave downstage center. As they dig they disappear six feet into the earth, leaving piles of dirt on the upstage side.

At curtain time a police warden appears, looks at his watch, hurrying them. Two workmen enter. They pull down the drop. The deafeningly shrill sound of a factory whistle. Blackout.

The lights come up to reveal the company. A man steps forward and sings.

MAN:
Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.
His skin was pale and his eye was odd.
He shaved the faces of gentlemen
Who never thereafter were heard of again.
He trod a path that few have trod,
Did Sweeney Todd,
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

ANOTHER MAN:
He kept a shop in London town,
Of fancy clients and good renown.
And what if none of their souls were saved?
They went to their maker impeccably shaved
By Sweeney,
By Sweeney Todd,
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

(A blinding light cuts down the stage as an upstage iron door opens. Two men enter. They carry a body in a bag, tied at both ends with rope. They are followed by a woman carrying a tin canister marked "Flour." They walk to the edge of the grave and unceremoniously dump the body in it. The woman opens the canister and pours black ashes into the hole. This action covers the next verse of the song)

COMPANY:
Swing your razor wide, Sweeney!
Hold it to the skies!
Freely flows the blood of those
Who moralize!

SOLOISTS:
His needs were few, his room was bare:
A lavabo and a fancy chair,
A mug of suds and a leather strop,
An apron, a towel, a pail and a mop.
For neatness he deserves a nod,
Does Sweeney Todd,

COMPANY:
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

WOMEN:
Inconspicuous Sweeney was,
Quick and quiet and clean 'e was.
Back of his smile, under his word,
Sweeney heard music that nobody heard.
Sweeney pondered and Sweeney planned,
Like a perfect machine 'e planned.
Sweeney was smooth, Sweeney was subtle,
Sweeney would blink and rats would scuttle.

{The men join in singing, voices overlapping, in a gradual crescendo)

Sweeney was smooth, Sweeney was subtle,
Sweeney would blink and rats would scuttle.
Inconspicuous Sweeney was,
Quick and quiet and clean 'e was,
Like a perfect machine 'e was,
Was Sweeney!
Sweeney!
Sweeney!
Sweeeeeneeeeey!

(TODD rises out of the grave and sings as the company repeats his words)

TODD AND COMPANY:
Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.
He served a dark and a vengeful god.

TODD:
What happened then well, that's the play,
And he wouldn't want us to give it away,
Not Sweeney,

TODD AND COMPANY:
Not Sweeney Todd,
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. ..
(The scene blacks out. The bells of a clock tower chine. Early morning light comes up. ..)

ACT I

A street by the London docks. A small boat appears from the back. In it are sweeney TODD, ANTHONY hope and the pilot. ANTHONY is a cheerful country-bom young ship's first mate with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. TODD is a heavy-set, saturnine man in his forties who might, say, be a blacksmith or a dockhand. There is about him an air of brooding, slightly nerve-chilling self-absorption.

ANTHONY:
I have sailed the world, beheld its wonders
From the Dardanelles
To the mountains of Peru,
But there's no place like London!
I feel home again.
I could hear the city bells
Ring whatever I would do.
No, there's no pl

TODD:
No, there's no place like London.

ANTHONY (Surprised at the interruption): Mr. Todd, sir?

TODD:
You are young.
Life has been kind to you.
You will learn

{They step out of the boat, music under)

It is here we go our several ways. Farewell, Anthony, I will not soon forget the good ship Bountiful nor the young man who saved nay life.

ANTHONY:
There's no cause to thank me for that, sir. It would have been a poor Christian indeed who'd have spotted you pitching and tossing on that raft and not given the alarm.

TODD:
There's many a Christian would have done just that and not lost a wink's sleep for it, either.

(A ragged BEGGAR WOMAN suddenly appears)

BEGGAR WOMAN (Approaching, holding out bowl to Anthony):
Alms! . . . Alms! ...
For a miserable woman
On a miserable chilly morning . . .

(Anthony drops a coin in her bowl)

Thank yer, sir, thank yer.

{Softly, suddenly leering in a mad way)

'Ow would you like a little squiff, dear,
A little jig jig,
A little bounce around the bush?
Wouldn't you like to push me crumpet?
It looks to me, dear,
Like you got plenty there to push.

{She grabs at him. As Anthony starts back in embarrassment, she turns instantly and pathetically to Todd, who tries to keep his back to her)

Alms! ... Alms! .. .
For a pitiful woman
Wot's got wanderin' wits ...
Hey, don't I know you, mister?

(She peers intently at him)

TODD:
Must you glare at me, woman? Off with you, off, I say!

BEGGAR WOMAN (Smiling vacantly):
Then 'ow would you like to fish me squiff, mister?
We'll go jig jig,
A little

TODD (Making a gesture as if to strike her):
Off, I said. To the devil with you!

(She scuttles away, turns to give him a piercing look, then wanders off)

BEGGAR WOMAN (i>Singing as she goes):
Alms! . .. Alms! ...
For a desperate woman ...

ANTHONY (A little bewildered):
Pardon me, sir, but there's no need to fear the likes of her. She was only a half-crazed beggar woman. London's full of them.

TODD (Half to himself, half to Anthony):
I beg your indulgence, boy. My mind is far from easy, for in these once-familiar streets I feel the chill of ghostly shadows everywhere. Forgive me.

ANTHONY:
There's nothing to forgive.

TODD:
Farewell, Anthony.

ANTHONY:
Mr. Todd, before we part

TODD (Suddenly fierce):
What is it?

ANTHONY:
I have honored my promise never to question you. Whatever brought you to that sorry shipwreck is your affair. And yet, during those many weeks of the voyage home, I have come to think of you as a friend and, if trouble lies ahead for you in London ... if you need help or money ...

TODD (Almost shouting):
No!

(ANTHONY starts, perplexed; TODD makes a placating gesture, sings quietly and intensely)

There's a hole in the world
Like a great black pit
And the vermin of the world
Inhabit it
And its morals aren't worth
What a pig could spit
And it goes by the name of London.

At the top of the hole
Sit the privileged few,
Making mock of the vermin
In the lower zoo,
Turning beauty into filth and greed.

I too
Have sailed the world and seen its wonders,
For the cruelty of men
Is as wondrous as Peru,
But there's no place like London!

There was a barber and his wife,
And she was beautiful.
A foolish barber and his wife.
She was his reason and his life,
And she was beautiful.
And she was virtuous.
And he was
(Shrugs)
Naive.
There was another man who saw
That she was beautiful,
A pious vulture of the law
Who with a gesture of his claw
Removed the barber from his plate.
Then there was nothing but to wait
And she would fall,
So soft,
So young,
So lost,
And oh, so beautiful!

ANTHONY:
And the lady, sir did she succumb?

TODD:
Oh, that was many years ago ...
I doubt if anyone would know.

Now, leave me, Anthony, I beg of you. There's somewhere I must go, something I must find out. Now. And alone.

ANTHONY:
But surely we will meet again before I'm off to Plymouth!

TODD:
If you want, you may well find me. Around Fleet Street, I wouldn't wonder.
ANTHONY: Well, until then, Mr. Todd.

(ANTHONY starts off down the street. TODD stands a moment alone in thought, then starts down the street in the opposite direction)

TODD:
There's a hole in the world
Like a great black pit
And it's filled with people
Who are filled with shit
And the vermin of the world
Inhabit it...

(As TODD disappears, we see MRS. LOVETT 's pie-shop. Above it is any empty apartment which is reached by an outside staircase. MRS. LOVETT, a vigorous, slatternly woman in her forties, is flicking flies off the trays of pies with a dirty rag as she sings or hums. TODD appears at the end of the street and moves slowly toward the pie-shop, looking around as if remembering. Seeing the pie-shop he pauses a moment at some distance, gazing at it and at MRS. LOVETT, who has now picked up a wicked-looking knife and starts chopping suet. After a beat, TODD moves toward the shop, hesitates and then enters. MRS. LOVETT does not notice him until his shadow passes across her. She looks up, knife in air, and screams, freezing him in his tracks)

MRS. LOVETT: A customer!

(TODD has started out in alarm. MRS. LOVETT sings)
Wait! What's yer rush? What's yer hurry?
(She sticks the knife into the counter)
You gave me such a
(She wipes her hands on her apron)
Fright. I thought you was a ghost.
Half a minute, can'tcher?
Sit! Sit ye down!
(Forcing him into a chair)
Sit!
All I meant is that I
Haven't seen a customer for weeks.
Did you come here for a pie, sir?

(TODD nods. She flicks a bit of dust off a pie with her rag)

Do forgive me if me head's a little vague
Ugh!
(She plucks something off a pie, holds it up)
What is that?
But you'd think we had the plague
(She drops it on the floor and stamps on it)
From the way that people
(She flicks something off a pie with her finger)
Keep avoiding
(Spotting it moving)
No you don't!
(She smacks it with her hand)
Heaven knows I try, sir!
(Lifts her hand, looks at it)
Ick!
(She wipes it on the edge of the counter)
But there's no one comes in even to inhale
Tsk!
(She blows the last dust off the pie as she brings it to him)
Right you are, sir. Would you like a drop of ale?

(TODD nods)
Mind you, I can't hardly blame them
(Pouring a tankard of ale)
These are probably the worst pies in London,
I know why nobody cares to take them
I should know,
I make them.
But good? No,
The worst pies in London
Even that's polite.
The worst pies in London
If you doubt it, take a bite.

(He does)

Is that just disgusting?
You have to concede it.
It's nothing but crusting
Here, drink this, you'll need it
(She puts the ale in front of him)
The worst pies in London

(During the following, she slams lumps of dough on the counter and rolls them out, grunting frequently as she goes)

And no wonder with the price of meat
What it is
When you get it.
Never
Thought I'd live to see the day men'd think it was a treat
Finding poor
Animals
Wot are dying in the street.
Mrs. Mooney has a pie shop,
Does a business, but I notice something weird
Lately all her neighbors' cats have disappeared.

Have to hand it to her
Wot I calls
Enterprise,
Popping pussies into pies.
Wouldn't do in my shop
Just the thought of it's enough to make you sick.
And I'm telling you them pussy cats is quick.
No denying times is hard, sir
Even harder than
The worst pies in London.
Only lard and nothing more

(As TODD gamely tries another mouthful)

Is that just revolting?
All greasy and gritty,
It looks like it's molting,
And tastes like
Well, pity
A woman alone
With limited wind
And the worst pies in London!

Times is hard. Times is hard.

(She finishes one of the crusts with a flourish, then notices TODD having difficulty with his pie, speaks)
Spit it out, dear. Go on. On the floor. There's worse things than that down there. (As he does) That's my boy.

TODD:
Isn't that a room up there over the shop? If times are so hard, why don't you rent it out? That should bring in something.
MRS. LOVETT:
Up there? Oh, no one will go near it. People think it's haunted. You see years ago, something happened up there. Something not very nice.

There was a barber and his wife,
And he was beautiful,
A proper artist with a knife,
But they transported him for life.
And he was beautiful...

Barker, his name was Benjamin Barker.
TODD:
Transported? What was his crime?
MRS. LOVETT:
Foolishness.

He had this wife, you see,
Pretty little thing.
Silly little nit
Had her chance for the moon on a string
Poor thing. Poor thing.

(As she sings, her narration is acted out. First we see the pretty young wife in the empty upstairs room dancing her household chores. During the following (adJUDGE and his obsequious assistant, the BEADLE, approach the house, gazing up lecherously. The wife remains demure, sewing)

There were these two, you see,
Wanted her like mad,
One of 'em a judge,
T'other one his beadle.
Every day they'd nudge
And they'd wheedle.
But she wouldn't budge
From her needle.
Too bad. Pure thing.

(Far upstage, in very dim light, shapes appear. A swirl of cloth, glints of jewels, the faces of people masked as animals and demons. During the following lyric, the wife takes an imaginary baby from an imaginary cot and sits on the floor, cradling it in her arms as she sobs)

So they merely shipped the poor bugger off south, they did,
Leaving her with nothing but grief and a year-old kid.
Did she use her head even then? Oh no, God forbid!
Poor fool.
Ah, but there was worse yet to come
Poor thing.

(Again the shapes appear, this time a bit more distinctly.

MRS. LOVETT (speaks, musingly)
Johanna, that was the baby's name . . . Pretty little Johanna. . .
TODD (Tensely):
Go on.
MRS. LOVETT (Eyeing TODD sharply):
My, you do like a good story, don't you?

(The BEADLE reappears, gazing up at the wife, miming in a solicitous manner for her to come down. MRS. LOVETT, warming to the tale, sings)

Well, beadle calls on her, all polite,
Poor thing, poor thing.
The judge, he tells her, is all contrite,
He blames himself for her dreadful plight,
She must come straight to his house tonight!
Poor thing, poor thing.

(Excited, almost gleeful)
Of course, when she goes there,
Poor thing, poor thing.
They're havin' this ball all in masks.

(The shapes are now clear. A ball is in progress at the JUDGE'S house: the company, wearing grotesque masks, is dancing a slow minuet. The BEADLE, leading the wife, appears, moving with her through the dancers. He gives her champagne. She looks dazedly around, terrified)

There's no one she knows there,
Poor dear, poor thing.
She wanders tormented, and drinks,
Poor thing.
The judge has repented, she thinks,
Poor thing.
"Oh, where is Judge Turpin?" she asks.

(During the following, the JUDGE appears, tears off his mask, then his cloak, revealing himself naked. The wife screams as he reaches for her, struggling wildly as the BEADLE hurls her to the floor. He holds her there as the JUDGE mounts her and, the masked dancers pirouette around the ravishment, giggling)

He was there, all right
Only not so contrite!
She wasn't no match for such craft, you see,
And everyone thought it so droll.
They figured she had to be daft, you see,
So all of 'em stood there and laughed, you see.
Poor soul!
Poor thing!

TODD (A wild shout):
Would no one have mercy on her?

(The dumb show vanishes. Music stops. TODD and MRS. LOVETT gaze at each other)

MRS. LOVETT (Coolly):
So it is you Benjamin Barker.
TODD (Frighteningly vehement):
Not Barker! Not Barker! Todd now! Sweeney Todd! Where is she?
MRS. LOVETT:
So changed! Good God, what did they do to you down there in bloody Australia or wherever?
TODD:
Where is my wife? Where's Lucy?

MRS. LOVETT:
She poisoned herself. Arsenic from the apothecary on the corner. I tried to stop her but she wouldn't listen to me.
TODD:
And my daughter?

MRS. LOVETT:
Johanna? He's got her.

TODD:
He? Judge Turpin?

MRS. LOVETT:
Even he had a conscience tucked away, I suppose. Adopted her like his own. You could say it was good luck for her .. . almost.
TODD:
Fifteen years sweating in a living hell on a trumped up charge. Fifteen years dreaming that, perhaps, I might come home to a loving wife and child.
(Strikes ferociously on the pie counter with his fists) Let them quake in their boots Judge Turpin and the beadle for their hour has come.

MRS. LOVETT (Awed):
You're going to get 'em? You? A bleeding little nobody of a runaway convict? Don't make me laugh. You'll never get His 'igh and Mightiness! Nor the BEADLE neither. Not in a million years.
(No reaction from TODD)
You got any money?
(Still no reaction)
Listen to me! You got any money?

TODD:
No money.

MRS. LOVETT:
Then how you going to live even?

TODD:
I'll live. If I have to sweat in the sewers or in the plague hospital, I'll live and I'll have them.

MRS. LOVETT:
Oh, you poor thing! You poor thing!
(A sudden thought)
Wait!
(She disappears behind a curtained entrance leading to her parlor. For a beat TODD stands alone, almost exalted. MRS.LOVETT returns with a razor case. She holds it out to him)
See! It don't have to be the sewers or the plague hospital. When they come for the little girl, I hid 'em. I thought, who knows? Maybe the poor silly blighter'll be back again someday and need 'em. Cracked in the head, wasn't I? Times as bad as they are, I could have got five, maybe ten quid for 'em, any day. See? You can be a barber again. (Music begins. She opens the case for him to look inside. TODD stands a long moment gazing down at the case) My, them handles is chased silver, ain't they?

TODD:
Silver, yes.
(Quietly, looking into the box, sings)
These are my friends.
See how they glisten.
(Picks up a small razor)
See this one shine,
How he smiles in the light.
My friend, my faithful friend.
(Holding it to his ear, feeling the edge with his thumb)
Speak to me, friend.
Whisper, I'll listen.
I know, I know
You've been locked out of sight
All these years
Like me, my friend.
Well, I've come home
To find you waiting.
Home,
And we're together,
And we'll do wonders,
Won't we?

(MRS. LOVETT, who has been looking over his shoulder, starts to feel his other ear lightly, absently, in her own trance. TODD lays the razor back in the box and picks out a larger one. They sing simultaneously)

TODD:
You there, my friend.
Come, let me hold you.
Now, with a sigh
You grow warm
In my hand,
My friend,
My clever friend.
(Putting it back)
Rest now, my friends.
Soon I'll unfold you.
Soon you'll know splendors
You never have dreamed
All your days,
My lucky friends.
Till now your shine
Was merely silver.
Friends
You shall drip rubies,
You'll soon drip precious
Rubies. ..

MRS. LOVETT:
I'm your friend too, Mr. Todd.
If you only knew, Mr. Todd
Ooh, Mr. Todd,
You're warm
In my hand.
You've come home.
Always had a fondness for you,
I did.
Never you fear, Mr. Todd,
You can move in here,
Mr. Todd.
Splendors you never have
dreamed
All your days
Will be yours.
I'm your friend.
Don't they shine beautiful?
Silver's good enough for me,
Mr. T.

(TODD holds up the biggest razor to the light as the music soars sweetly, then stops. He speaks into the silence)

TODD: My right arm is complete again!


Next Page   |   Back to Sweeney Todd Index