Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd…
As the curtain goes up, we see gravediggers digging a grave while the members of the company come onstage (The Ballad of Sweeney Todd: Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd). In the middle Sweeney Todd climbs out of the grave. The story opens in London in the nineteenth century. A boat comes into the harbor with two men on it. One is Anthony Hope, a young sailor. The other is Sweeney who was rescued from the sea by Anthony. Sweeney shows disgust towards London and expresses it to Anthony (No Place Like London).
A crazy beggar woman asks for donations from Sweeney. He pushes her away and tells Anthony a story about a woman whose husband, a barber, was transported from England by a judge, Judge Turpin, and his beadle (The Barber and His Wife). They bid farewell and Sweeney continues down the street. He comes to Mrs. Lovett’s Pie Shop. Mrs. Lovett invites him in and explains why she has The Worst Pies in London.
She tells him the same story he has just told with a few twists (Poor Thing). The judge told the woman, who had a year old daughter with the barber, he was sorry for sending her husband away. He invited her to a party at his home and she accepted. When she went there, the judge raped her. She went crazy and drank poison. Their daughter, Johanna, was adopted by Judge Turpin. Sweeney cannot take the story anymore and Mrs. Lovett recognizes him as the barber, Benjamin Barker. She gives him his old razors and he gives them a pep talk to prepare them for the taste of revenge they are about to experience (My Friends).
He moves into his old apartment above the shop where he had lived so many years earlier. The company comes back for a number (The Ballad of Sweeney Todd: Lift your razor high, Sweeney!…).
They go into town and see a travelling barber, Pirelli, selling a miracle elixir to grow hair (Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir). Sweeney smells it and reveals to the crowd that it is “piss with ink”. He then makes a bet with Pirelli that he can shave a beard and pull a tooth better than anyone (The Contest). Sweeney wins the first part easily. Only one man needs a tooth pulled so Pirelli puts his assistant, Tobias, into his chair and tries to pull a tooth. Naturally Sweeney wins the bet. He also announces the opening of his barber shop above the pie shop.
Across town Anthony sees Johanna for the first time standing on her balcony (Green Finch and Linnet Bird). He does not know her and asks the beggar woman who she is (Ah, Miss). He is so captured by her beauty that he vows to win her heart (Johanna). He rushes back to the shop to tell Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett. They agree that Anthony should bring Johanna to Fleet Street before they marry.
Anthony leaves and Pirelli enters with Tobias. Pirelli used to work for Benjamin Barker. He threatens to blackmail Sweeney. Sweeney tries to strangle him and then slashes Pirelli’s throat (The Ballad of Sweeney Todd: Sweeney pondered and Sweeney planned…).
Sweeney is distressed because the judge hasn’t shown up yet. Mrs. Lovett gives him the best advice of all (Wait). The company comes on again to sing (The Ballad of Sweeney Todd: His hands were quick, his fingers strong…).
Judge Turpin has feelings for Johanna but tries to hold them back (Johanna). He tells Johanna that she will marry him on Monday. Anthony and Johanna are finally together when he finds out the dreadful news. They decide to marry on that same night (Kiss Me). Judge Turpin talks to the beadle. He suggests that Judge Turpin should go to Sweeney’s shop for a shave (Ladies in Their Sensitivities). Sweeney is bent on revenge and plans to kill the judge and the beadle. The judge goes to Sweeney and just as Sweeney is about to slash his throat, Anthony bursts in singing about his love (Pretty Women).
The judge storms out and Sweeney orders Anthony out too. Sweeney becomes even more morbid than he already is and tells Mrs. Lovett that we all deserve to die (Epiphany). Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney finally decide where to put Pirelli’s body (A Little Priest). Another woman who bakes pies puts cat meat into them. A human body is good for a lot more pies than a cat. Act I ends with Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett raising their respective weapons (the razor and a rolling pin)
A few weeks later Mrs. Lovett has made quite a name for herself (God, That’s Good). People are flocking to her shop to taste the best pies in London. Tobias becomes Mrs. Lovett’s assistant after the barber’s unfortunate demise. The beggar woman is seen around the shop quite a bit trying to get free food. Sweeney continues to kill innocents and buys a special barber chair. When he pulls a lever, the body travels down a chute into the bakehouse.
Sweeney and Anthony dream about Johanna (Johanna). Mrs. Lovett interrupts Sweeney’s thoughts by telling him her own dreams (By the Sea).
Anthony discovers that Judge Turpin has had Johanna locked in an insane asylum and runs to Sweeney. They decide to have Anthony pose as a wigmaker (Wigmaker Sequence). He will go to bedlam to buy hair the colour of Johanna’s and instead rescue her (The Ballad of Sweeney Todd: Sweeney’d waited too long before…).
Sweeney writes a note to Judge Turpin telling him that the sailor is planning to run away with Johanna (The Letter). He will hold them at his shop and he advises the judge to come to the shop right away.
Tobias tells Mrs. Lovett how much he cares about her and she assures him that the feeling is mutual (Not While I’m Around).
The beadle arrives at the shop because there have been complaints about a smell from the bakehouse. It is the smell of burning hair. Others have complained after finding hairs in their pies. Mrs. Lovett has locked Tobias in the bakehouse and tries to keep the beadle busy until Sweeney gets home (Parlour Songs). And so the Final Sequence begins.
Anthony has gotten Johanna out of the asylum and inadvertently every crazy person in London. They roam the streets screaming and yelling. Sweeney arrives home and kills the beadle. Tobias has found hairs and fingernails in some of the pies and starts to panic. He goes insane after the beadle’s body comes down the chute. He hides in a dark part of the bakehouse just as Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney arrive to do away with him. Anthony and Johanna get to the shop and do not realize that Sweeney is downstairs hunting his prey. Anthony leaves to get a ride out of London. The beggar woman who spoke to Anthony and was seen around the shop enters the shop. Johanna locks herself in a trunk as the beggar woman continues to babble in her lair of insanity. Sweeney bursts in with his razor. Hearing Judge Turpin approach, he kills the beggar woman and sends her down the chute.
Sweeney leads the judge into the chair and murders him. He quickly sends the judge down the chute, perhaps too quickly. He is still alive. He clings onto the bottom of Mrs. Lovett’s dress and dies. Sweeney rushes downstairs, but forgets his razor. When he gets back to the shop he sees Johanna dressed as a sailor but does not recognize her. He is about to kill her when Mrs. Lovett screams.
Sweeney runs to the bakehouse and gets ready to throw the bodies into the oven. Mrs. Lovett tries to keep him away from the beggar woman. Sweeney reaches down and recognizes her as his wife, Lucy. She had lived and Mrs. Lovett knew it. The poison had only made her go crazy.
Sweeney pretends to forgive Mrs. Lovett and starts to dance with her. When they get near to the oven, he pushes her in and slams the door. He goes back to his wife’s body and weeps. Tobias comes out of hiding and kills Sweeney in a rage.
Anthony and Johanna appear at the door of the bakehouse and see the gruesome scene. Tobias goes to the meat grinder and starts to crank it while mumbling, “Three times through for them to get nice and juicy. Smoothly. Smoothly.”
The company comes back on stage to deliver the epilogue. The final lines are supplied by Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett as they rise out of the grave (The Ballad of Sweeney Todd: Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd…).