The king of all musical dramas, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd hasn’t been done wholeheartedly on Broadway since Jimmy Carter was president. And despite the show’s outsized reputation, the original production didn’t attract much of an audience. In the pre–Phantom of the Opera era when Broadway was a hard sell to tourists, it won the Tony for Best Musical yet recouped less than 60 percent of its investment in the March 1979–June 1980 premiere run. The most recent revival, directed by John Doyle in 2005–06, was a low-budget minimalist take, short on both visual and sonic pizzazz, that seemed to have wandered in from a smoky downstairs cabaret. Patti LuPone, blowing a tuba as Mrs. Lovett, led a cast that played their own instruments as they acted. Doyle sought to turn the show inside out, offering a fresh take for...


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