Musical 'Sweeney Todd' is back and better than ever

Actors Shin Sung-rok, left, and Lina, perform a scene of the musical "Sweeney Todd" at Charlotte Theater in Songpa District, southern Seoul, on Tuesday. [OD COMPANY]

Musical "Sweeney Todd" has returned to the local stage with an added depth and understanding of its original creator Stephen Sondheim's musical score, said the show's producer Shin Chun-soo during a press conference in southern Seoul's Charlotte Theater on Tuesday.

"It has been just over one year since Sondheim passed away, and especially because he is now gone, we really wanted to go back to the core basics of the musical and grasp a deeper understanding of the lyrics which the genius lyricist created," said Shin.

After its premiere on Broadway in 1979, "Sweeney Todd" became the signature work of American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. When the musical was first unveiled to the public, it was praised by critics who said that it was not just a form of simple entertainment but also art. The musical was instantly dubbed a “sensational masterpiece” and took home eight awards, including Best Musical at the Tony Awards the year it premiered. The Korean production of the musical has also been loved by musical aficionados since it first opened in Seoul in 2016 and then again in 2019.

The cast of 2022 Korean production of musical "Sweeney Todd" pose for photos after a press event at Charlotte Theater in Songpa District, southern Seoul, on Tuesday. [OD COMPANY]

All three actors rotating the role of Mrs. Lovett — Jeon Mi-do, Kim Ji-hyun and Lina — are returning to their roles since either the musical's first production or its second.

The female actors agreed that the title roles of "Sweeney Todd" are pressing yet fun once they felt comfortable with the technical skills required for acting and singing such a rich and difficult score.

"I had a really hard and stressful time playing Mrs. Lovett in 2019, which was my first time, but this time around, I was able to have more fun because I was already familiar with the lines, staging and the music," said Lina.

Kim Ji-hyun also said that she is able to enjoy herself in the role much more than in 2019. "I think I was able to create a much more witty, cunning and naturally funny version of the character for this year's production."

Jeon Mi-do said that Mrs. Lovett is one of her favorite parts to play because of diverse emotions that she goes through and how she gets to overtly express all those feelings.

"I couldn't wait to play Mrs. Lovett again — I had missed her a lot."

Jeon debuted as a musical theater actor, but has recently been seen more often on the television screen in series such as "Hospital Playlist" (2020-21) and "Thirty-Nine" (2022). Her role in "Sweeney Todd" marks her first stage performance in six years.

Actors Lee Kyoo-hyung, Shin Sung-rok and Kang Pil-suk, who rotate the role of Sweeney Todd, have newly joined the show for the 2022 production.

"I was so impressed with the level of perfection of this show," said actor Shin. "I am very honored and happy to be part of the cast."

"This is a show with incredible energy both in its music and the plot," said Kang. "It is very exciting as an actor to be able to absorb all that energy and relay it to the audience."

Set in 19th century England, the musical revolves around a barber named Benjamin Barker. He is living a happy life with his beautiful wife and daughter, but everything changes when he is falsely accused of a crime by Judge Turpin. The barber eventually loses his family and is exiled to Australia, but comes back to the town to seek revenge on Judge Turpin with a female accomplice named Mrs. Lovett.

The musical runs through March 5, 2023.