PlayMakers’ Summer Youth Conservatory to perform ‘Sweeney Todd’

A cast of young student actors will perform Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” July 17-21 at the Center for Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

PlayMakers Repertory Company, the professional theater in residence at UNC, will present the musical thriller as the culmination of its popular, award-winning Summer Youth Conservatory.

Shows will be at 7:30 p.m. on July 17-20 and 2 p.m. on July 21 in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre inside the Center for Dramatic Art located on Country Club Road. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and children under 18 and may be purchased by calling (919) 962-PLAY (7529), online at or at the PlayMakers box office.

“Sweeney Todd” combines music, melodrama, murder and “the worst pies in London” in an infamous tale based on Victorian urban legend. Todd, a bloodthirsty barber, seeks revenge on villainous Judge Turpin, with the assistance of an amorous accomplice, daffy pie-maker Mrs. Lovett — reaping dastardly results. Featuring Sondheim’s legendary lyrical wit and musical storytelling, “Sweeney Todd” is entertaining and surprising, filled with comic turns and chilling drama.

“Sweeney Todd” was universally praised as an instant masterpiece and became a Broadway hit with the Tony Award-winning 1979 production featuring Angela Lansbury. The New York Times called the musical thriller a “whopping grisly yarn” and a “thumping good theatrical event.” The 2005 Broadway revival with Patti Lupone also garnered Tony Awards.

The musical was embraced by even wider audiences with Tim Burton’s 2007 film version starring Johnny Depp and Sacha Baron Cohen.

“Sweeney Todd” will be directed by Tom Quaintance, artistic director of Cape Fear Regional Theatre in Fayetteville. Quaintance helmed previous conservatory productions including “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Music Man” and “Oliver!” He also directed PlayMakers main-stage productions of “The Little Prince” and co-directed “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” with producing artistic director Joseph Haj.

The conservatory is a unique theater experience for young people: an educational and performance opportunity that includes working with professional directors, choreographers and musical directors at PlayMakers.

The Summer Youth Conservatory has been honored by the North Carolina Theatre Conference (NCTC) with the Constance Welsh Youth Theatre Award for excellence in performance, service of mission and community outreach. NCTC recognized the conservatory as “a model program for youth theatre in North Carolina.”

The conservatory features three programs: Theatre Intensive and TheatreTech for high school students and Theatre Quest for middle-schoolers.

Beginning June 17, high school actors in the Theatre Intensive program will have the opportunity to train, rehearse and perform “Sweeney Todd” in PlayMakers’ professional theater space.

At the same time, participants in TheatreTech begin a program in scenic, costume and lighting production. TheatreTech includes an in-depth series of technical coursework followed by a month-long apprenticeship with PlayMakers’ professional staff.

PlayMakers offers Theatre Quest, a series of week-long classes for middle school students, from June 17 to July 19. This program gives students the opportunity to train with professional artists in a variety of subjects including “Principles of Acting,” “Shakespeare and Stage Combat,” “Acting for the Camera,” “Musical Theatre I: Solo Showcase” and “Musical Theatre II: ShowStoppers.” Students can participate in one week of training or all five.

Teachers for Theatre Quest are John Dreher (“Cabaret”), Katja Hill (“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”), David McClutchey (“Nicholas Nickleby”) and Estes Tarver (“Tuesdays With Morrie”).

A limited number of spots are still available for Theatre Quest. Contact PlayMakers education manager Jennifer Wales at (919) 962-2491 or to enroll. Tuition is $300 per week.

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PlayMakers is based in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. For information about PlayMakers’ 2013-2014 season, which begins in September, visit Subscription packages are currently available.