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Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia just produced a run of "Sweeney Todd."  This 9-person version, directed by Richard Rose and music directed by Tim Robertson, was accompanied by two pianists and the staging was simple and stark.  Mrs. Lovett is a role I've always dreamed of playing and what an honor indeed it was to inhabit the skin of this hard-scrabble survivor with a practical sensibility that verges on insanity, a scavenger's sense of style, a soft heart for the underclass, a disdain for the upper class, an unsentimental work ethic, a whimsical imagination, a moral sense as malleable as silly putty and an undying passion for Sweeney Todd.


The Look: The creation of the look was great fun.  I knew from the start that I wanted the "Worst teeth in London" (and that's saying a LOT!)  Thanks to Mehron's Tooth FX, I was able to craft a dental disaster.  The notion of Mrs. Lovett as a scavenger type or rag picker was first and foremost.  Anything for survival.  After all, this is a woman who would chase a cat down an alleyway in hopes of new meat supplies.  The magnificent human and synthetic hair wig was created by Barter's wig mistress, Heather Fleming.  The entire top of it was hand tied through netting using a tiny hook and as few as a single hair at a time.  My inspiration for the facial makeup was the whores in Hogarth's famous illustrations of "The Rake's Progress"...often haggard looking but always with ample cleavage and faux beauty spots.  The blouse is crumpled, the sleeves rolled up for work, the skirt threadbare and discolored.  The boots, scuffed and well worn.  Here is a gallery of show shots taken by Barter photographer Leah Prater with my comments. 

Hope you enjoy........and p.s. next time you go to the barber, wear a turtleneck.       
Sincerely, Jill

This "chamber version" of Sweeney Todd was performed on the ominous industrial
Victorian set created by Dale Jordan, who designed both set and lighting.  Here, the ensemble
sings the explosive opening song, "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd."



In "Worst Pies In London," Mrs. Lovett laments
the shortage of affordable meat.  She tells Sweeney
"Ah, sir, times is hard, times is hard."



Right,  Mrs. Lovett examines this dark stranger, suspecting
that he might be her long-lost neighbor and object of her secret passion, 
Benjamin Barker AKA Sweeney Todd





In "Poor Thing," in a ploy to get him to reveal his true identity, Mrs. Lovett tells Todd the dastardly details of his wife's demise at the hands of  The Beadle and cruel Judge Turpin.  She also reveals that Turpin now has custody of his daughter Johanna





At right, Mrs. Lovett offers Sweeney his razor set
 that she has saved for him during his incarceration.


Below, Todd sings "My Friends" as an ode
to his razors - the tools of his revenge.












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