"Attend the tale of Sweeney ToddSweeney Todd (subtitled "The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"), is a highly-regarded musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler. It is based on the Christopher Bond version of the legendary story of an English barber who murdered his customers and, with the help of his neighbor Mrs. Lovett, made them into pies. In this version of the story, Todd is out to get revenge on a corrupt Judge who sent him to prison on false charges, raped his wife, and "adopted" his daughter fifteen years ago. Mrs. Lovett enables Todd's bloodlust as it helps out her business, but also tries to dissuade him from this goal so that he can settle down with her.The original Broadway production went up in 1979 at the Uris Theatre. It was directed by Harold Prince and starred Len Cariou as Sweeney Todd and Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett. It has since been the subject of many revivals and concerts, and is widely considered Sondheim's masterpiece. Since the latest revival and release of the Tim Burton film version, it has become even more popular than Into the Woods.
His face was pale and his eye was odd
He shaved the faces of gentlemen
Who never thereafter were heard from again
He trod a path that few had trod
Did Sweeney Todd
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."
His face was pale and his eye was odd
He shaved the faces of gentlemen
Who never thereafter were heard from again
He trod a path that few had trod
Did Sweeney Todd
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."
— The opening number, "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd"
The musical provides examples of:
- Accidental Adultery: It comes out that Todd has unwittingly committed adultery when his wife Lucy turns up alive but insane. He is not happy with Lovett when he finds out that she knew all along.
- Accidental Pun: Sondheim had Mrs. Lovett sing "bring along your chopper"—referring to Sweeney's beloved razors—in 'By the Sea' having no idea that 'chopper' is slang for 'penis' in Britain.
- Accidentally Accurate: An in-universe example. In "Epiphany," Todd sings "And my Lucy lies in ashes," presumably referring to the famous phrase "ashes to ashes, dust to dust." Unbeknownst to him, Lucy is still alive and sleeping among the rubbish bins of London as a homeless beggar—she's literally "lying in ashes."
- Adaptation Distillation / Adaptation Expansion: (a little of both) The characters of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett come from a Victorian "shilling shocker" titled The String of Pearls. It is only in Christopher Bond's modern version, which Sondheim's musical adapts, that Sweeney has a revenge motivation, and Mrs. Lovett has a crush on him.
- Also in the original story, Tobias is employed from the beginning by Sweeney Todd, and he had only very passing interaction with Mrs. Lovett (specifically, stopping by to buy a pie). Instead of Anthony, we had Mark Ingestrie, and he and Johanna have a more unambiguously happy ending. Most of the characters from the play and movie appear, but many have had their roles, relationships, and so on shuffled around, essentially being recast (or using a very, very Alternative Character Interpretation).
- Sondheim also fixes one or two weak moments in Bond's version. Now we actually see the lovers meeting for the first time instead of just hearing about it. Likewise, instead of simply developing a taste for blood, Todd sings "Epiphany" in which his mind snaps after the Judge escapes his clutches and he decides that "we all deserve to die".
- An Aesop: If you seek vengeance, you will only end up becoming as bad as (if not worse than) the one who wronged you.
- Alliterative Name: Benjamin Barker, Beadle Bamford.
- Alto Villainess: Mrs. Lovett
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Mrs. Lovett, to Sweeney, during the final scene. Certain productions put more emphasis on the "anguished" part, such as the 2012 London Cast version.Mrs. Lovett: I love you, I'd be twice the wife she was! I love you!
- Anti-Hero: Sweeney Todd starts out as this status, before "Epiphany" where his mind cracks completely.
- Anti-Villain: Again, Sweeney Todd himself.
- Asshole Victim: Pirelli, Judge Turpin, and Beadle Bamford. And by the end of the show Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney himself fit the bill pretty well.
- The Barber: Sweeney's stock in trade, both as Benjamin Barker and as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
- Bedlam House:
- Fogg's Asylum, into which Johanna is imprisoned, is a perfect example of this.
- There's also Lucy Barker, who was sent to the actual Bedlam House.
- Big "NO!":
- Issued by Sweeney when Mrs. Lovett informs him of his wife's rape at the end of "Poor Thing."
- And again at the end, when he realizes that the Beggar Woman whose throat he just slit was his wife.
- Black Comedy: Despite its dark subject matter, the show is surprisingly funny, especially 'A Little Priest'.
- Blackmail Backfire: When Pirelli recognizes Sweeney from the old days when he was Benjamin Barker, he tries to blackmail him, threatening to tell Beadle Bamford about him if he doesn't hand over half his earnings to him every week. This proves to be his biggest mistake.
- Bowdlerise: The Other Wiki has details on the high school-appropriate version of this show.
- Bolivian Army Ending: For Anthony and Johanna.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall:
- The section in "Epiphany" where Todd turns on (and in some performances, leaps into and menaces) the audience.
- "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" is addressed directly to the audience and contains the following lines:What happened then?Well, that's the play,And he wouldn't want us to give it away...
- Break the Cutie: Toby, Johanna, Lucy, as well as Todd himself when his name was still Benjamin Barker.
- B.S.O.D. Song: "Epiphany".
- Call-and-Response Song: Segments of "My Friends" and most of "A Little Priest".
- Cassandra Truth: The Beggar Woman tells these all the time.
- Chekhov's Gun: Signor Pirelli's coin purse. After Mrs. Lovett pilfers it off his body she pulls it out several more times. When Toby finally sees it and recognizes it, it starts unraveling everything for her and Sweeney.
- Chewing the Scenery: Sweeney can be played this way—George Hearn being a good example.
- Companion Cube: Sweeney's razors.
- Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: While searching for Toby in the sewers when he's figured out what's REALLY in the pies. "Tooooby...Where aaaare you..."
- Contrived Proximity: We're sure that old beggar woman has no importance to the story whatsoever. She was hanging around her own old house and where her daughter lived. Still had some memories.
- Cooking Duel: "The Contest"; shaving and tooth-pulling.
- Counterpoint Duet: "My Friends", "A Little Priest", "God That's Good!" and "Final Scene" all count, while "Kiss Me/Ladies In Their Sensitivities" and the Act 2 reprise of "Johanna" are Counterpoint Quartets!
- Crapsack World: With one or two possible exceptions, every character is either a complete sociopath or an Extreme Doormat.Todd: In all of the whole human race, Mrs. Lovett, there are two kinds of men and only two/ There's the one staying put in his proper place / And the one with his foot in the other one's face!/ Look at me, Mrs. Lovett—look at you!
- Crosscast Role: In the 2005 revival, Pirelli is played by a woman, but as a man.
- Toby is also occasionally played by a woman.
- Crowd Song: "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir". It slowly morphs into an Angry Mob Song when Todd and Lovett reveal Pirelli's scam.
- Crusading Widower: Sweeney's motivation to kill comes from his dead wife and his daughter who, while not dead, is taken away from him.
- Cycle of Revenge: Turpin and Bamford were responsible for the imprisonment of Sweeney, so he went on a quest to hunt them down. Then immediately after he finally achieved his vengeance, Sweeney finds out about Lovett's lies about his wife, whom he killed earlier, so he throws her in the oven, and then he himself is killed by Toby in the end for his own murder of Pirelli.
- Damsel in Distress:
- Subverted in the stage version. Although Johanna's character mostly fits the trope, in a memorable scene, Anthony rescues her from a madhouse where she is being imprisoned, pointing a gun at the asylum keeper. After Anthony admits he can't shoot, Johanna picks up the gun and kills the asylum keeper.
- Played straighter in the film, in which neither Anthony nor Johanna shoots the asylum keeper—they leave him to be torn apart by the abused inmates.
- Dangerously Close Shave: 'Nuff said.
- Dark Reprise: All over the place, although special mention goes to "Final Scene", which features reprises of "Poor Thing", "A Little Priest", a snippet of "By the Sea" and ends with "A Barber and His Wife", each one being darker than the original version.
- Furthermore, when Todd and Mrs. Lovett are chasing Toby through the sewers, she sings a few haunting lines from "Not While I'm Around".
- Dead Man's Chest: Signore Pirelli's final fate.
- Death by Sex: Played straight, subverted, and double subverted. Lucy swallows poison after being raped, and Sweeney wants to kill Turpin for raping her. However neither of them dies immediately. And when all's said and done and Everyone Has Died, it would seem that only the assumed virgins are left alive. Double points for Mrs. Lovett, easy to interpret as a lusty widow, for getting the most gruesome death in the play.
- Death Song: "Pirelli's Death" for, naturally, Pirelli, "The Judge's Return" for Judge Turpin, "Final Scene" for Mrs. Lovett, and the reprise of "A Barber and His Wife" for Sweeney.
- Despair Event Horizon: Sweeney definitely crosses it when he kills his wife Lucy and later finds out what he's done and feels heavy regret about it. This implies that he's shown heavy regret for his actions and the end reveals how much suffering he has felt throughout the musical.
- Dirty Old Man: Judge Turpin is an extremely evil example.
- Dissonant Serenity: Sweeney's part in the Johanna Quartet is this. He murders people in an eerily detached manner, singing a gorgeous song.
- Distant Duet: "Johanna (Quartet)".
- The Dog Bites Back:
- Pirelli tries this. It doesn't work.
- Toby is a lot more successful at this than Pirelli.
- Don't Explain the Joke: "And I'm telling you them pussycats is quick!"
- Door Closes Ending: Ends with Sweeney slamming a door after he has walked through it.
- Double Entendre:
- "You will be guaranteed, without a penny's charge...the closest shave you will ever know."
- "We'll serve anyone...meaning anyone...and to anyone..."
- Downer Ending: By the end, the only cast members alive are Toby, Johanna and Anthony. Johanna and Anthony still have nowhere to go and the guards are likely to take them in for questioning. Toby is completely mad and just committed murder so he's probably heading to prison or the madhouse.
- The Dragon: The Beadle fills this role for Judge Turpin.
- Driven to Suicide: Lucy poisoned herself, according to Mrs. Lovett. Except she never said that she died... Some productions may have Sweeney fill this trope after he realizes he killed his wife. Though arguably it'd be assisted suicide. Take the concert production, Sweeney unbuttons his collar so Toby can slit his throat easier.
- Drumroll Please: Toby does this himself while presenting "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir".
- Due to the Dead: Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett engage in the evil version of this.
- The Dulcinea Effect: Anthony to Johanna.
- Eat the Evidence: Does this really require explanation?
- Eat the Rich: During "A Little Priest," Sweeney briefly considers exclusively serving the upper classes in Mrs. Lovett's pie shop before discarding the idea as "discriminating."
- Epic Rocking: The eponymous Ballad that opens and closes the show fits.
- Evidence Dungeon: Sweeney Todd has a variation of this with the meat room of Mrs. Lovett's pie shop. Sweeney Todd starts murdering Sweeney's customers and baking them into pies. The smell of the human flesh burning is pumped into the air and just by the nature of butchery, loads of viscera must be left around.
- Evil Is Petty: Mrs. Lovett. Quite apart from the horrible things she and Sweeney do, which aren't petty at all, she spends a surprisingly large amount of time making spiteful jabs at people. During God That's Good! she gloats that she's put her rival Mrs. Mooney out of business. Earlier she'd scoffed at her over the suspicion that she was using cat meat. Considering what Mrs. Lovett is now including in her pies...
- Evil Sounds Deep: Sweeney is a bass-baritone and Judge Turpin a bass. On the other hand, the Beadle and Pirelli are both Counter-Tenors. This is countered out with Anthony's high, innocent tones.
- Evil Versus Evil: A Straw Nihilist Serial Killer with a razor who has his victims baked into pies with the help of a ruthless Yandere Stepford Smiler, against a Hanging Judge Pervert whose backstory includes raping the serial killer's wife, and whose introduction is a Kick the Dog—he has the title character transported for life so that he could have his wife for himself. His "best friend" sees nothing wrong with any of this and is quite content to help him seduce the daughter, who the judge has adopted as his own.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Sweeney slits people's throats with a straight razor and has the bodies baked into pies, but he won't kill men who have families, which is understandable, since the reason for his Roaring Rampage of Revenge is that he was unjustly taken away from his wife and daughter, who were then raped/Driven to Suicide (well, not exactly) and adopted/implied to be sexually abused by Judge Turpin, respectively. Though it may be more Pragmatic Villainy, families mean witnesses and investigations. The latter explains why it's Played for Laughs in the stage version. In some productions, he does give a customer's daughter a small treat.
- Exact Words: Mrs. Lovett, when Sweeney discovers Lucy was still alive the whole time.Sweeney: You lied to me!Mrs. Lovett: No. No, not lied at all— no, I never lied! Said she took the poison— she did— never said that she died-
- False Dichotomy: Todd, when he goes insane in "Epiphany" and figures why "we all deserve to die": any person who is happy is a wicked wrongdoer so killing them is a service to the community; and to any other person "death will be a relief".
- Fauxreigner: Adolfo Pirelli a.k.a. Daniel O'Higgins, and he's Irish.
- A Fκte Worse Than Death: The masked ball in "Poor Thing", which culminates in Judge Turpin raping Sweeney Todd's wife.
- Foreshadowing: And lots of it.
- Why doesn't Mrs. Lovett want the Beggar Woman near Sweeney? She's Lucy.
- When the Beggar Woman first meets Sweeney, she sings "Hey—don't I know you, mister?" As mentioned above, the Beggar Woman is Lucy, his supposedly dead wife—despite being driven insane, she still remembered her husband.
- The bird seller talking about how they make the birds sing. "We blinds 'em. That's what we always does. We blinds 'em and, not knowing night from day, they sing and they sing without stopping. Pretty creatures." This was later echoed by Fogg, talking about Johanna. "She needs so much correction! She sings day and night and leaves the other inmates sleepless!"
- Fractured Fairy Tale: Everything about Johanna's situation seems to be taken from a fairy tale, Rapunzel and Allerleirauh, in particular. Most of the main characters seem to be based on fairy tale archetypes (Mrs. Lovett is the deceitful witch, Anthony is the optimistic commoner, Johanna is the princess in distress, Toby is the orphan, and Turpin is the Devil).
- Framing Device: In the revival, the events of the play are shown as being the story Toby tells in the insane asylum.
- From a Certain Point of View: The major epiphany of the final scene:Mrs. Lovett: "No, no, not lied at all—No, I never lied, said she took the poison—she did, never said that she died."
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Benjamin Barker to Sweeney Todd.
- Funny Foreigner: Subverted Signore Pirelli's exaggerated Italian accent and mannerisms are faked; the character is really an Irishman named Daniel/Davey. This can turn into a Double Subversion, depending on how strong the Irish accent and mannerisms are presented (see the 1982 videotaped stage performance for an example).
- Gaining the Will to Kill: The eponymous Sweeney Todd was originally a wronged man looking to get his daughter back from an evil judge, who abducted the girl after raping Sweeney's wife and sending Sweeney himself to Australia on a trumped-up charge. That all changes when a charlatan named Pirelli recognizes Sweeney as an escaped convict and threatens to turn him in, driving Sweeney to kill him. Sweeney has never killed before, but he shows no remorse for this act, having decided it was necessary to protect his cover. When his friend Mrs. Lovett proposes disposing of the body by baking it into meat pies, Sweeney finds he has no qualms about continuing to kill, and launches himself into a frenzied campaign of revenge against the world that wronged him by becoming a Serial Killer and handing the bodies over to Mrs. Lovett for, er, disposal.
- Get Out: Sweeney's reaction to Anthony's very untimely foiling of his first attempt to kill Turpin.
- Gilded Cage: Well, technically it's damask and dark.
- Girl in the Tower: Johanna, despite her walking outside. It's implied that Turpin not only forbids her from leaving the house, but also from leaving her room (because the rest of the house must have windows, too). Not to mention other allusions to Rapunzel.
- Go Among Mad People: Happens to Johanna.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Tobias, after he discovers what's in the pies.
- Gotta Kill Em All: Sweeney's plan to kill the Beadle and the Judge, which eventually morphs into everyone.
- Grief Song: Many. Most notably is the reprise of 'A Barber And His Wife'.
- Hanging Judge: Judge Turpin.
- Hated Hometown: When Sweeney agrees that "there's no place like London," it's not praise.
- The Hecate Sisters: Johanna as the maiden, Mrs. Lovett as the mother and the Beggar Woman as the crone.
- Hero Antagonist: Tobias Ragg.
- Hero of Another Story: Picture Anthony as the protagonist and Todd as the Poisonous Friend, keeping Judge Turpin and the Beadle as Big Bad and The Dragon respectively.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Sweeney becomes worse than the monsters after "Epiphany".
- High-Pressure Blood: Depending on the production. Can also be done on-stage, but it's very tricky.
- Human Resources: The two main characters use human flesh in decidedly resourceful ways.
- Hurricane of Puns: The wickedly funny string of allusions to personalities and flavors in the number "A Little Priest", where the two figure out how they'll dispose of the body upstairs (and make a tidy profit out of future customers, at the expense of the rival pie shop across the way).(after tasting a pie made of a priest) HEAVENLY!
- Hypocritical Humor: "Wouldn't do in my shop/why the thought's enough to make you sick/and I'm telling you them pussycats is quick!"
- "I Am Becoming" Song: "Epiphany", "Johanna Quartet".
- Ignorance Is Bliss: Toby has this at first toward the meat pies he and his new family are selling.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Judge Turpin has a serious problem with lust when it comes to pretty women, and ends up doing this to Lucy Barker in the "Poor Thing" scene.
- I'm a Humanitarian: You are if you eat at Mrs. Lovett's pie shop.
- Incest Subtext: Lightly hinted at in the reprise of "Johanna"; Sweeney talks about how beautiful he thinks Johanna probably is, and that she might "look too much" like Lucy, and that maybe it's better that they don't meet again. Although maybe he's just saying that having a living reminder of her would make him miss Lucy too much.
- Informed Attractiveness: Lucy and Johanna.
- The Ingenue: Johanna, at least until some time in the asylum.
- Insane Troll Logic: "Epiphany" is all about this. Todd decides that "We all deserve to die"—if you're an evil person, murder is a sacred duty, and if you're not evil, you're being mistreated by evil people, so being murdered is actually the best option.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: Pat-a-cake pat-a-cake baker's man ...
- Johanna is the only member of her family who goes to an insane asylum, but she's also the only member of her family who hasn't gone insane. This really depends on how she's played—sometimes she's already insane, and sometimes she only goes insane after she's put in the insane asylum. The lyrics in "Kiss Me" imply that she is at least very unstable. "It was a gate, it's the gate... —We don't have a gate!"
- In pursuit of vengeance for his wife, and wanting his daughter back, Sweeney winds up murdering his wife and almost kills his daughter, who's in disguise.
- Lucy wound up in Bedlam instead of a hospital, so technically Johanna isn't the only one of the family to end up in a nut-house.
- All three of the Barkers end up in their old room together and none of them are aware that the others are there.
- Anthony is a sailor who is both young and claims to have "[Sailed] the wold and seen its wonders" yet he's a romantic idealist. He doesn't even quite grasp the magnitude of Johanna's home life situation. Johanna, on the other hand, is a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl raised in wealth and she's extremely nervous and a bit cynical, admitting that she was afraid that Anthony wouldn't come back for her.
- "I Want" Song: Mrs. Lovett's "By The Sea" song, all about the future she's hoping for.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Lucy Barker. Benjamin Barker, too.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Sweeney himself.
- Kangaroo Court: Judge Turpin's trial of Benjamin Barker is anything but fair.
- Karmic Death: Sweeney Todd delivers one to Judge Turpin out of vengeance and later suffers another himself by irony. Likewise, Mrs. Lovett is baked to death inside her own oven.
- Kick the Dog: Judge Turpin and the Beadle are dog-kicking machines. Senseless acts of evil include:
- The imprisonment of Benjamin Barker on a false charge, sending him to a prison colony for many years (Judge Turpin)
- Raping Lucy Barker and thus driving her mad (Judge Turpin)
- Snapping the neck of the bird that Anthony had bought for Johanna (the Beadle)
- Throwing Johanna into Fogg's Asylum for defying Turpin (Judge Turpin)
- Pirelli's brutal treatment of poor Toby also qualifies as a Kick the Dog moment.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Sweeney begins his transition into a Serial Killer by killing Pirelli, a con artist who attempts to blackmail him.
- Kill 'em All: Were you expecting a revenge tragedy to have a happy ending? Sweeney Todd, Judge Turpin, Lucy, and Mrs. Lovett are all dead. Only Toby, Johanna, and Anthony are all alive. The police burst into the bakehouse just after Toby has slit Sweeney's throat, and is deliriously repeating Mrs. Lovett's secret of how to make the pies juicy and tender. "Three times, that's the secret.. three times through the grinder." This suggests that Toby is on his way to a Bedlam House. Anthony and Johanna are also there with the police, Johanna presumably having gone to them about the fact that Todd nearly killed her. Presumably they get a happy ending given that the Judge and Beadle aren't around to have Johanna re-committed, but it's still pretty gruesome...
- Kill the Ones You Love: Sweeney kills the beggar woman, unaware that she is actually his wife Lucy.
- Killed Offstage: Beadle Bamford is unceremoniously murdered out of sight, although the reveal of his body serves a narrative purpose by pushing poor Toby—who was already beginning to realize the secret of the meat pies—over the edge into full-on madness.
- Lady Macbeth: Mrs. Lovett is arguably more evil than Sweeney Todd. Given that while he has the excuse of having endured terrible tragedy and going crazy, she participates in and encourages his mass-murdering for financial motives, and it was her suggestion to cook the corpses of his victims in the first place.
Then, there's Mrs. Lovett's ulterior motive in not telling Sweeney that his wife is alive and is the crazy Beggar Woman; she lets him think his wife is dead because of her crush on Sweeney.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre:
- "If you get my drift..."
- "No?" ... "AH!" "Good, you got it."
- Large Ham:
- In "A Little Priest", the actor always arrives overdone...
- George He- excuse me, GEORGE HEARN!!!
- And when paired with Patti LuPone, it gets taken to new levels, very effectively.
- People who saw Angela Lansbury early in her Broadway run and then later on, around the time of the recorded production, generally say that she was playing a couple jokes much bigger as the show's run went on.
- During A Little Priest, if Sweeney and Lovett aren't completely tearing the house down, they're doing it wrong.
- Jack Eric Williams, who played Beadle Bamford in the original cast, is quite a ham himself. "GLAD AS ALWAYS TO OBLIGE MY FRRRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS!"
- Last-Second Word Swap: In "The Worst Pies in London":Mrs. Lovett: Is that just revolting,
All greasy and gritty?
It looks like it's molting,
And tastes like—
- Least Rhymable Word: "Locksmith."
- Leitmotif: In many of her appearances, the Beggar Woman sings a fast-paced, discordant jig: "How'd you like a little muff, dear? A little jig-jig? A little bounce around the bush?" We hear the same music, played much more slowly and beautifully (to the point of being almost unrecognizable—that's deliberate), at the beginning of the Judge's costume party in flashback, where Lucy ends up raped. The music thus becomes a Chekhov's Gun: presumably, this was one of the last things Lucy heard before she went mad, and it now repeatedly runs through her head as she wanders the streets of London.
- There is also the underscoring when Todd sings "and my Lucy lies in ashes" is also played when he kills the Beggar Woman. There's also the Beggar Woman's "Alms, Alms!" is a repeated motif—"The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" is reprise and entertained within many songs—honestly, it would probably be faster to list what isn't a motif.
- Lethal Chef: Subverted Mrs. Lovett is this before she starts making pies of human flesh; she says because she couldn't afford fresh meat. She's not alone; she snaps that her rival, Mrs. Moony, uses the neighbors' cats for filling. Afterward, in the wake of financial success, Mrs. Lovett's meat pies are delicious (if now lethal in a rather different way), implying that she's actually a good cook, she just needs better ingredients.
- Like Mother, Like Daughter: A blink-and-you'll-miss-it example, but at the beginning of "Kiss Me," Johanna's first idea of how to avoid marrying Turpin is to poison herself: "I'll swallow poison on Sunday/That's what I'll do, I'll get some lye..."
- Locked into Strangeness: Toby, at the finale.
- Lonely Rich Kid: Johanna.
- The Lost Lenore: Lucy, to Sweeney.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Mrs. Lovett, in spades.
- Loving a Shadow: Sweeney has a variation in regards to his fatherly love of Johanna. His version of the Johanna quartet is him wondering what she's like.
- Lured into a Trap: The "Poor Thing" sequence has Beadle Bamford luring Lucy Barker to a masked ball at Judge Turpin's mansion, telling her that the Judge is remorseful about sending away her husband, Benjamin Barker, for life on a false charge. Turns out he's anything but remorseful, and has used this as a means to get her alone and defenseless.
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- "A Little Priest"
- Also Mrs. Lovett's verse in "Not While I'm Around"; she repeats Toby's protests of love and loyalty, but the creepy, wheedling violin solo underneath makes them sound totally insincere.
- "Johanna (Reprise)".
- Made from Real Girl Scouts: "Or we have some shepherd's pie, peppered with actual shepherd on top."
- Mad Love: Depending on the version, Mrs. Lovett's one-sided obsession with Sweeney can be seen as an example of this trope, particularly considering her attempts to keep him from discovering that his wife is still alive.
- Madness Mantra:
- The old woman Lucy spouts these: "Beadle deedle deedle deedle deedle deedle deedle dumpling!" "Mischief! Mischief!"
- Also Toby at the end of the stage show. "Three times, that's the secret, three times through the grinder."
- Manipulative Bastard:
- Mrs. Lovett, you're a bloody wonder.
- Also Todd's scheme in Act II, where he helps Anthony to rescue Johanna by setting him up as a wigmaker's apprentice and betrays Anthony to the Judge in order to lure the latter back to his parlour. In particular, the song "The Letter" shows Todd agonizing over the exact words that will manipulate the Judge's lust and sense of inadequacy.
- Meaningful Echo: During "Poor Thing", a flashback shows Lucy opening up the window curtains in Sweeney's barbershop. During Act II, the Beggar Woman opens up the curtains in the exact same fashion.
- Meaningful Name: "Tod(d)" is German for "death."
- Midword Rhyme: "Ladies In Their Sensitivities".When a girl's emergent
Probably it's urgent
You defer to her gent-
-tility, my Lord
Meaning no offense, it
- And again in the same song!
Happens they resents it
Ladies in their sensit-
-ivities, my Lord
- Moment Killer: Anthony walks into the barbershop for one of his trademark interruptions right after Mrs. Lovett suggests to Sweeney that they can "have a life together."
- Mood Whiplash: After the terrifying Epiphany in which Sweeney goes off the deep end comes the hilarious Hurricane of Puns that is A Little Priest.
- Motive Decay:
- Sweeney quickly goes from desiring only revenge on the Judge and Beadle responsible for his imprisonment and stealing his wife and daughter to a vendetta against all humanity. However, given that in the original Victorian "shilling shocker", Sweeney had no motivation for his crimes, this is undoubtedly an improvement.
- There's even a song that illustrates it: his part in the Johanna Quartet.
- Todd's Motive Decay is a fully-fledged part of his character arc; come The Reveal at the very end, Todd realizes what a monster he has become in allowing his lust for revenge and violence to consume him.
- Murder by Cremation Mrs. Lovett.
- Musical Spoiler: When Sweeney kills the Beggar Woman, a piece of the instrumental theme from "Epiphany" plays, specifically the part where Sweeney sings, "And my Lucy lies in ashes..."
- My God, What Have I Done?: After realizing that the old beggar woman he killed was Lucy, Sweeney Todd has this reaction, before turning his anger towards Mrs. Lovett, who told a bit of a Jedi Truth.Sweeney: Oh my god! Lucy! WHAT HAVE I DONE?
- Mystery Meat
- Never Trust a Hair Tonic: Pirelli's Miracle Elixir... isn't.
- Never Trust a Trailer: This commercial, featuring George Hearn and Angela Lansbury, doesn't seem to showcase any of the dark material of the show (although you might catch a hint at the end). In fact, if you were to watch it without having any knowledge of Sweeney Todd, you might even think that it's a pretty normal, happy story.
- THIS commercial, on the other hand, sums up the darkness factor in 30 seconds.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job busting into Sweeney's barber shop in the middle of his shaving of Turpin so that your plans to rescue Johanna gets blown to hell, Anthony!
- Not to mention that you ruining Todd's plans for vengeance has caused him to lapse into a downward spiral of mass murder and unwitting (for the customers of the pie shop, anyway) cannibalism! Well done!
- No Doubt The Years Have Changed Me: Sweeney to Turpin, the Trope Namer. Also the Beggar Woman.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Len Cariou in the original production made no attempt at an English accent. Which actually helped sharpen the character's isolation from the rest of the cast, most of whom either were English or affecting Fake Brit accents.
- Obi-Wan Moment: Sweeney's death.
- Obsession Song: The Judge's song "Johanna (Mea Culpa)". Anthony's version of "Johanna" can come across as this as well.
- Oh Crap!:
- Judge Turpin, upon finally learning just who Sweeney Todd is, just before Sweeney takes brutal and final vengeance.
- As well as Sweeney himself after Pirelli reveals that he knows him from the old days, with similar results.
- Opening Chorus
- The Ophelia: Johanna in many productions. She's sometimes wearing Flowers In Her Hair when she's in the asylum.
- Penal Colony: Botany Bay in Australia, where Benjamin was transported for life.
- Perky Female Minion: Mrs. Lovett. In the musical, she is clearly the comic foil to the brooding and vengeful Todd. Makes her Moral Event Horizon(s) all the more jarring.
- Pet the Dog:
- Lovett taking in Toby. She's using him for labor, but she feeds him and knits him a muffler.
- Lovett speculates that the Judge adopting Johanna must means that he did have enough of a conscience to save her. Productions that feature "Mea Culpa" suggest that she may be a just a little bit right about the Judge's sincerity.
- Pre-Asskicking/Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "BENJAMIN BARKER!!!"
- Pre-Insanity Reveal: the homeless madwoman that hangs around the barber shop is revealed to be Sweeney's long-lost wife, Lucy. Unfortunately, this isn't revealed—either to Sweeney or the audience—until after he murders her.
- Psycho Supporter: Mrs. Lovett's support of Sweeney's murder sprees and her eagerness to get rid of the corpses in such a disturbed manner make her a prime example of this trope.
- Rape as Drama: Lucy Barker. Johanna, maybe. Threat of rape, almost certainly.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: The judge sends Benjamin off to Botany Bay on a false charge so that he could get at his wife Lucy.
- Red Herring: In the song "Kiss Me," Johanna makes a big fuss about her reticule (small purse), saying she cannot possibly leave it behind, it's the only thing her mother gave her... quite a bit of set-up. The reticule is never mentioned again.
- Reduced to Ratburgers: In the time that the play is set in, there is a meat shortage in London, such that those without means often have to turn to other avenues to get their meat, such as catching animals off the streets to be made into pies. It is this situation which leads to Mrs. Lovett's idea to serve up Sweeney's victims as meat pies. After all...Sweeney: These are desperate times, Mrs. Lovett, and desperate measures are called for.
- Reprise Medley: Many reprises are intertwined in the show, but notable examples are:
- City On Fire: The main song is taken from the Beggar Woman's solo in "Johanna (Quartet)", Johanna sings a snatch of "Kiss Me", and Mrs. Lovett sings part of "Not While I'm Around".
- Judge's Return: the music when Sweeney kills the Beggar Woman is taken from "Epiphany", the Judge and Sweeney reprise "Pretty Women", and then Sweeney reprises "My Friends".
- Final Scene: Sweeney sings a line from "No Place Like London" with underscoring again from "Epiphany" while Mrs. Lovett reprises "Poor Thing". They then reprise "A Little Priest" and Mrs. Lovett sings "By The Sea". Finally, Sweeney sings "A Barber and His Wife".
- Retirony: Arguably, "By the Sea."
- Revenge: Sweeney Todd is done in the style of a classical revenge tragedy.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The entire show is one for Sweeney.
- Rule of Threes: There are three songs called "Johanna", one of them sung by Anthony, the second by Judge Turpin, and the last as a quartet led by Sweeney. The second is cut from some productions, despite it being the Judge's big moment.
- Also, Mrs. Lovett's instructions for making the meat pies:"Three times... that's the secret... three times through the grinder..."
- Also, Mrs. Lovett's instructions for making the meat pies:
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Epiphany."
- Say My Name: BENJAMIN BARKER!
- Scare Chord: SWING YOUR RAZOR WIDE, SWEENEY! HOLD IT TO THE SKY! The first two verses were sung with only the singer illuminated. During the music between the second verse and the above line, the entire stage was dark and the entire cast assembled in ranks. The line starts; cue every spotlight in the house going on and Scare Chord. Truly amazing.
- The shrill factory whistle that accompanies Sweeney's murders.
- Another, more dramatic example plays in the final scene, when Sweeney sees the face of the beggar woman he has just murdered, and recognises her as his wife, Lucy.
- Scenery Porn:
- The stage version generally has to use a double-level set and depending on the available resources it can get more elaborate from there. On the other hand, John Doyle's 2004 staging in London (later transferred to Broadway) was a minimalist version that had only 10 actors who played instruments when they were not singing themselves, and only suggested its settings.
- Also, the concert version performed in New York and San Francisco had no sets whatsoever, the actors performed on platforms surrounded by the orchestra.
- The Secret of Long Pork Pies: The bodies are used to make Mrs. Lovett's meat pies, initially just for body disposal but often it then turns out that this just increases the flavor.
- Sentenced to Down Under: Sweeney being handed this punishment kicks off the plot.
- Setting Introduction Song: "No Place Like London".
- Setting Update: Of "The String of Pearls", which stated that the story of Sweeney Todd took place in 1785. Instead, the musical takes place in 1846, the year the story was first published.
- Serial Killer: Sweeney himself, as well as his "The String of Pearls" incarnation.
- Sex Is Evil: According to Judge Turpin.
- Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny: Various theater versions of this musical have various takes on this. Some make him a more clear-cut example by highlighting his self-loathing, while others make him more one-dimensional.
- Short Title: Long, Elaborate Subtitle: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
- Silent Credits: In the 1982 live filming of Hearn/Lansbury the credits are unsettlingly so.
- Slashed Throat: Well, it is Sweeney Todd.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Todd is contrasted with the young sailor Anthony Hope, who is a romantic idealist. It should be noted that Anthony Hope is still alive at the end. Whether this is good or bad is dependent on where you fall on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism.
- Snake Oil Salesman: Pirelli's trade.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: All of the Barkers. Lucy's beauty is what caused the Judge's attraction to her and kickstarted the plot. The same applies to Johanna once she grows older and the Judge sets his sights on her. Meanwhile, Todd may have been able to reunite with Lucy (or at least not have killed her) if he hadn't attracted Mrs. Lovett.
- Sociopathic Hero: Given that he was wrongly imprisoned for more than a decade and has lost his wife and daughter, the audience is encouraged to sympathize with Sweeney Todd. At first.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: One of the best scores in musical theatre belongs to a play about a guy who slits people's throats and has them baked into pies. A beautifully executed example in the "Johanna" sequence near the beginning of Act II, where Sweeney's steady, gentle, romantic theme is at odds with the atrocities he is simultaneously committing, showing how disassociated he has become.
- Spanner in the Works: The story would have been a lot shorter if Anthony hadn't apparently competed in a "say something incriminating as quickly as possible" contest.
- Split Hair: During the contest with Pirelli, Sweeney does this. Generally, on-stage, he pulls one of his hairs out, slices it, and watches it fall to the ground, all during a pause in Pirelli's song.
- Stealth Pun: The Ballad after Pirelli's Death is a barbershop trio.
- Stalker with a Crush:
- Anthony, to Johanna.
- If Mrs. Lovett is played as having waited specifically for Todd to return a single man, then this certainly applies.
- Stalking Is Love: Anthony's infatuation with Johanna and Mrs. Lovett's obsession with Sweeney Todd can both come across like this. Judge Turpin appears this way at first, but this is horribly subverted when a few minutes later it's revealed that he rapes Lucy after seemingly attempting to court her.
- Straw Nihilist: In the songs "Epiphany" and "A Little Priest", Sweeney justifies his actions based upon the utter corruption of the world. He even states that all Humans Are Bastards who deserve to die.There's a hole in the world, like a great black pit,
And it's filled with people who are filled with shit
And the vermin of the world inhabit it...
But not for long!
They all deserve to die!
- Stepford Smiler: Mrs. Lovett is an example of the facade being the true personality with a bit of Yandere thrown in, always almost always cheerful and kindly, but having no qualms about chopping up and cooking Todd's victims, motivated by obsessive love for Sweeney Todd and a desire to improve her economic standing.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: in the finale.The history of the world, my pet,
Is learn forgiveness and try to forget.
And life is for the alive, my dear,
So let's keep living it
Just keep living it
Really living it
(he throws her in the oven and stops singing)
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Johanna after the escape from Fogg's Asylum.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Sweeney.
- That Man Is Dead: "It's Todd now. Sweeney Todd. And he will have his revenge."
- That Reminds Me of a Song: The Beadle's "Parlour Songs". The fact that he is spending so much time singing is relevant to the plot, but the content of the songs is not.
- There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: "There's the one staying put in his proper place and the one with his foot in the other one's face."
- Together in Death: Implied by the final scene of Todd dying while cradling Lucy.
- Tragic Dream: She may be a sociopath, but Lovett's enthusiastic dream of marrying Todd and living a blissful life in a seaside Stepford Suburbia is never going to happen. As everything starts falling apart she seems to grow desperate to cling to this.
- The Unfettered: Sweeney has no desires besides getting his revenge and lets nothing get in his way.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Anthony, when he (rather unfortunately) stops Todd from killing Judge Turpin mid-story.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: It's usually a well-known fact that the musical added stories of revenge, a judge, and Sweeney's daughter to the original story. The latter was originally a novel, itself based on an Urban Legend...which has its roots in a true story. The latter is quite different from Sweeney 's scenario, though, except it involved cannibalism. It happened in Paris, not London, and as soon as 1387, in Marmousets street. Also, the baker was male, not female, and named Pierre Miquelon, while his barber neighbor was Barnabé Cabard. Their motivation was apparently simply greed, (no revenge story here) and they were burned at the stake after it was discovered they used students corpses to do pâtés. Ironically, Barnabé is nowadays often described as a "french Sweeney Todd", while it's actually the other way round.
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: Mrs. Lovett puts Pirelli's purse in hers.
- Villain Protagonist: Mr. Todd himself.
- Villain Song: "Epiphany", Turpin's "Johanna"
- Villainous Breakdown / BSOD:
- "Epiphany." Dear gods, "Epiphany." Also, Sweeney seems to descend into an even deeper circle of insanity hell after he finds out he killed his own wife.
- And a "The Villain Protagonist Sucks" song with "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" itself.
- Villainous Crush:
- Judge Turpin for both Lucy and Johanna.
- Mrs. Lovett for Todd, too.
- Voice Types: Every voice type is represented:
- Johanna soprano
- Beggar Woman mezzo-soprano
- Mrs. Lovett mezzo-belter
- Beadle Bamford tenor/counter-tenor
- Pirelli tenor/counter-tenor ( this role is sometimes played by a soprano in drag, because of its high range (two, sometimes 3 high Cs!) for example in the 2005 revival version.)
- Tobias tenor
- Anthony lyric baritone or tenor
- Sweeney Todd bass-baritone
- Judge Turpin bass
- Weapon of Choice: Sweeney's razors.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Anthony Hope sees evil only when it's being rubbed in his face (example: any interaction he has with the Beadle). Even then, he believes that good will win.
- Wife Husbandry: Judge Turpin attempts this in regards to Johanna. It fails.
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief: We are asked to accept that a serial killer can operate so openly for so long before people realize that very few customers of Todd's are ever seen again after their appointments. However, it seems that the plan is only to dispose of visiting foreigners and other people who have no close acquaintances in the city, which makes it slightly more believable.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Sweeney Todd himself.
- Would Hurt a Child: After Todd kills Pirelli, Mrs. Lovett asks what she should do about Toby. He tells her to "send him up."
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Anthony believes himself to be the romantic hero of a love story between him and Johanna and is completely naive to how corrupt and evil the other characters are (including his "friend" Sweeney Todd). Johanna seems much less naive than him as she grew up with the Judge and knows how awful he is. Similarly, in different ways, both Toby and Mrs. Lovett seem to think of themselves as being in a more conventional Victorian rags to riches story, with Lovett planning a better life away from the city, and Toby believing that he can protect and repay her for saving him. Indeed, much of the pathos in the play comes from characters acting as though they are in a rather different kind of story.
- Yandere: Mrs. Lovett.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: At the very end, Todd finally tells Mrs. Lovett everything she's been longing for him to tell her throughout the play, while dancing with her. And then he throws her in the oven and lets her burn to death.
- You Never Asked: Mrs. Lovett told Todd that his wife poisoned herself while he was gone, but didn't mention that Lucy was still alive, but had gone crazy and become a street beggar. Lovett keeping this fact from Todd caused him to kill his wife.