PARAMOUNT THEATRE’S SWEENEY TODD RUNS FEB. 8-MARCH 19

Some call Sweeney Todd Stephen Sondheim’s most perfect score, filled with ravishing beauty. Others describe this Victorian melodrama as a pitch-black comedy, filled with thrills and terrors. Many herald this musical about an English barber, who murders his customers with a straight razor and, with his accomplice Mrs. Lovett, processes their corpses into meat pies, one of the single greatest achievements of American theater in the last 50 years.

Some, others, many and bloody well everyone need to strap themselves in for Paramount Theatre’s bold new production of Sweeney Todd-The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Artistic Director Jim Corti – who staged last season’s Jeff winning best musical West Side Story, winner of 2015 Jeff Awards for director and musical for LES MISERABLES, and the only Chicago theater artist to win Jeffs for directing, choreography and acting, will stage and choreograph Paramount’s new take on Sondheim’s beautiful, yet terror-filled musical. Paramount favorite Tom Vendafreddo returns for his tenth consecutive Paramount production as music director and conductor.

Previews start February 8. Press opening is Saturday, February 11 at 8 p.m. Performances run through March 19: Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Single tickets are $44 to $59. Sweeney Todd is rated PG-13.

The Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora, is surrounded by affordable parking and new restaurants for pre- or post-show dining. To purchase tickets, go to ParamountAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or visit the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and two hours prior to evening performances.

It’s just another day in 19th Century England. Benjamin Barker has returned home. The only thing is, it’s been 15 years since the once fresh-faced barber has seen his family. Barker was unjustly imprisoned on trumped up charges by the corrupt Judge Turpin, who had his leering eyes on the barber’s beautiful wife. Upon his arrival to the pie shop where he and his family once lived above, Barker’s old friend and confidant Mrs. Lovett unravels the events of the past decade. She explains about the seduction of his wife by the Judge, which led her to take her own life. And to sharpen the pain, she breaks the news that the Judge adopted and is raising Barker’s daughter as his own. Barker vows revenge and turns to the tools with which he’ll exact his plan: a razor and a barber chair. While the ensuing events are unfortunate for some, others – including Mrs. Lovett, her struggling pie shop and her customers – quickly prosper from the body count.

“Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece resonates powerfully and creepily with penny dreadful gallows humor not unlike today’s political satire,” said director Jim Corti. “The leads, Todd and Lovett, are examples of how ordinary humans can become monsters capable of atrocity when vengeance and survival are forced upon perfectly good, wholesome people. Poisoned and toxic, they approach us to tell their tale. It’s all perfectly, grotesquely beautiful. Perfectly human.”

Paramount’s principal cast members are Paul-Jordan Jansen as Sweeney Todd,
Bri Sudia as Mrs. Lovett, Matt Deitchman as Adolfo Pirelli, John Herrera as Judge Turpin,Cecilia Iole as Johanna, Anthony Norman as Tobias Ragg, Emily Rohm as Beggar Woman,Patrick Rooney as Anthony Hope and Craig W. Underwood as Beadle.

Ensemble members are Julie Bayer, Harter Clingman, Nathan Maurice Cooper, Evan C. Dolan, Thomas Forde, Emily Glick, Emily Goldberg, Alana Grossman, Teressa LaGamba, Harriet Nzinga Plumpp, Matthew Thomas Provencal, Rob Riddle, Dan Riley, Will Skrip, Jason Slattery and Abby Murray Vachon.

The Sweeney Todd production team includes Trent Stork, associate director; Kory Danielson, assistant music director/associate conductor; Jeff Kmiec, scenic designer; Theresa Ham, costume designer; Nick Belley and Jesse Klug, co-lighting designers; Adam Rosenthal, Sound Designer; Ethan Deppe, electronic music designer; Katie Cordts, wig, hair and make-up designer; Amanda Relaford, properties designer; Patrick Ham, special effects designer; Ryan Bourque, fight choreographer; Jinni Pike, stage manager; and Nora Mally, assistant stage manager.

Sweeney Todd is a fictional character who first appeared as the villain of the Victorian penny dreadful “The String of Pearls” (1846-47). Claims that Sweeney Todd was a historical person are strongly disputed by scholars, although his tale became a staple of London urban legend.

His story has been retold many times since, including in Sweeney Todd-The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, Sweeney Todd has been nominated for Tony Awards in three different decades. The original 1979 production received nine Tony nominations and brought home eight including best musical, score and book. A 1990 remount saw four more Tony nominations. Tim Burton directed Johnny Depp in the lead role in the acclaimed 2007 musical fantasy horror film. Back on Broadway, a 2016 New York revival landed six more Tony nods. Popular musical numbers include “A Little Priest,” “My Friends,” “Epiphany,” “Worst Pies in London” and “Pretty Women.”

Jim Corti (director) was hired in 2011 to be the first-ever artistic director in the Paramount’s 80+ year history. He was instrumental in launching Paramount’s inaugural Broadway Series and directed and choreographed Paramount’s first self-produced Broadway Series show My Fair Lady, which played to rave reviews. Corti’s 2013 Paramount production of Fiddler on the Roofwas a smash hit, and his Miss Saigon was the only musical to make the Chicago Tribune’s Top Ten Shows of 2013. RENT in 2014 was a critical and box office success, followed by consecutive productions of The Who’s Tommy and LES MISERABLES, which collectively garnered five Jeff Awards for Paramount in its first year of eligibility, including Best Production – Musical – Large for LES MISERABLES and Best Director – Musical for Corti. He also staged Paramount’s 2015-16 opener Oklahoma! and closer West Side Story, Paramount’s second-consecutive Jeff Award winning Best Musical. Earlier this season Corti directed Mamma Mia!. Before Paramount, Corti was a seasoned Broadway veteran, appearing in the New York casts of Ragtime, A Chorus Lineand Candide and national tours of Urinetown, Cabaret and Bob Fosse’s Dancin’. Career highlights over three decades include being the only director in Chicago to have two productions at the same time in the Chicago Tribune’s list of 10 Best Shows in 2009 – Drury Lane’s Cabaretand Writers Theatre’s Oh, Coward!. He remains the sole honoree to have garnered a Jeff Award as an actor (in Marriott’s Grand Hotel), a choreographer (Drury Lane’s Singin’ in the Rain) and director (Paramount’s LES MISERABLES, Drury Lane’s Sweet Charity and Northlight’s Blues in the Night).

Tom Vendafreddo (music director and conductor) is helming his tenth consecutive musical at Paramount, preceded by In the Heights, Mary Poppins, The Who’s Tommy, LES MISERABLES (Jeff Nomination, Music Direction), Oklahoma! (Jeff Nomination, Music Direction), A Christmas Story – The Musical (Jeff Nomination, Music Direction), Hairspray – The Broadway Musical, West Side Story (Jeff Nomination, Music Direction), Mamma Mia! and Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Other credits include Company and Sweet Charity (Writers Theatre); On the Town and Godspell (Marriott Lincolnshire); Road Show and Shrek: The Musical (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); The Spitfire Grill (BoHo Theatre – Jeff Nomination for Music Direction); and Pump Boys and Dinettes (Metropolis Performing Arts Center). Regional credits include RENT (San Diego Musical Theatre), Odyssey (Old Globe Theatre), Forever Plaid (Chestnut Fine Arts) andIt’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play (Cygnet Theatre). As a cabaret artist, he has performed in Chicago, New York, San Diego and Melbourne. In 2014, he became the Founding Artistic Director of the Chicago Artists Chorale, a choral ensemble of working professionals in the Chicago theatre community. He received a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and Music Education from Eastman School of Music and a Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from San Diego State University. tomvendafreddo.com

Paramount’s 2016-17 season line-up is anchored by its acclaimed Broadway musical series. Following Sweeney Todd is Jesus Christ Superstar, Apr. 19-May 28, 2017.

In addition, Paramount’s 2016-17 season also includes Defending the Caveman (Jan. 20), God Save The Queen (Jan. 21), Home Free (Mar. 24), Madeleine Peyroux and Rickie Lee Jones(Mar. 25), Golden Dragon Acrobats (Mar. 26), Riverdance: 20 Years (Mar. 31-Apr. 2, five shows), Piano Men: A Tribute to Elton John and Billy Joel (Jun. 10, two shows) and Barbra and Frank: The Concert That Never Was… (Jun. 11).

Back in 2016-17 is Paramount’s popular Classic Movie Monday series, presenting everyone’s favorite flicks in one of Chicago’s top former movie palaces on a two-story screen, for just $1. Paramount also serves the community with low-cost children’s shows designed to entertain while they educate: Miss Nelson is Missing (Mar. 22) and Laura Ingalls Wilder (Mar. 23).

For subscriptions, single tickets or more information, go to ParamountAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in Aurora.

The Paramount Theatre is the center for performing arts, entertainment and arts education in Aurora, the second largest city in Illinois. Named “One of Chicago’s Top 10 Attended Theatres” by the League of Chicago Theatres, the 1,888-seat Paramount, located in downtown Aurora at 23 E. Galena Blvd., is nationally recognized for the quality and caliber of its presentations, superb acoustics and historic beauty.

The Paramount opened on September 3, 1931. Designed by renowned theater architects C.W. and George L. Rapp, the theater captures a unique Venetian setting portrayed in the art deco influence of the 1930s. The first air-conditioned building outside of Chicago, the Paramount offered the public a variety of entertainment, including “talking pictures,” vaudeville, concerts and circus performances for more than 40 years.

In 1976, Aurora Civic Center Authority purchased the Paramount and closed the theater for restoration. The $1.5 million project restored the Paramount to its original grandeur. On April 29, 1978, the Paramount Arts Center opened, offering a variety of theatrical, musical, comedy, dance and family programming. In 2006, a 12,000-square-foot, two-story Grand Gallery lobby was added, with a new, state-of-the-art box office, café and art gallery.

Today, the Paramount self-produces its own Broadway Musical Series, presents an eclectic array of comedy, music, dance and family shows, and on most Mondays, screens a classic movie.

The Paramount Theatre is one of three live performance venues programmed and managed by the Aurora Civic Center Authority (ACCA). ACCA also oversees the Paramount’s “sister” stage, the intimate, 173-seat Copley Theatre located directly across the street from the Paramount at 8 E. Galena Blvd., as well as RiverEdge Park, downtown Aurora’s summer outdoor concert venue.

The Paramount Theatre continues to expand its artistic and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Tim Rater, President and CEO, Aurora Civic Center Authority; Jim Corti, Artistic Director, Paramount Theatre; a dedicated Board of Trustees and a devoted staff of live theater and music professionals. For tickets and information, go to ParamountAurora.com or call (630) 896-6666.