PlayMakers Repertory Company will bring these themes to life in its mainstage season finale presentation of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” which will premiere March 30. Annie Golden will be playing Sweeney Todd’s accomplice, Mrs. Lovett. She has also appeared in several Broadway productions, but she is more commonly known for her role as the silent prisoner Norma Romano in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.”
David St. Louis will be playing the bloodthirsty barber Sweeney Todd. He has appeared on Broadway in “Side Show,” “Harlem Song” and “Rent,” in addition to appearing in film and television.
Vivienne Benesch, PlayMakers’ producing artistic director, said the leading duo of Golden and St. Louis are very experienced music theater veterans.
“It means a lot that actors of this caliber want to take artistic risks and come to work here at PlayMakers,” she said.
Auditions took place in both New York and Chapel Hill. St. Louis auditioned for the role, but because Golden’s reputation preceeded her, Jen Wineman, director of “Sweeny Todd,” said PlayMakers reached out to her personally.
Golden said the role of Mrs. Lovett is a challenge, but she is used to playing characters who are survivors.
“(Mrs. Lovett) has a lot of adversity in her life,” she said. “She’s just a survivor, kind of like the women in ‘Orange is the New Black.’”
Golden said “Sweeney Todd” is a love story, but a dark love story, and she will bring the idea of a woman in love to her role.
“It’s all about longing,” she said. “People long to better their lives; people long to better their situation.”
Wineman said she hopes to honor the aspects of darkness and comedy through production.
Benesch said the company is excited to bring another Stephen Sondheim musical to the stage.
“Any of Sondheim’s work is a part of America’s music history,” she said. “The musical itself has great music, a great story and great characters.”
Though Golden is a professional actor, she said she has been impressed by the rest of the cast and how accomplished they are.
“I’m going to be surprising everyone,” she said. “Norma Romano from ‘Orange is the New Black’ is going to be singing her butt off.”
Wineman said St. Louis had a powerful voice and was able to quickly channel an inner darkness for the role of Sweeney Todd.
“His imagination matched up perfectly with this part,” she said.
The cast is made up of 20 actors, including undergraduate and graduate students, local actors, visiting actors and professional actors.
“It’s probably the greatest musical of the 20th century,” Wineman said.
“I know with this group of people we’re going to make something special.”