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Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd (1748 - 1802) was a famous serial killer convicted of murdering Francis Thornhill based on the testimony of a doctor who had treated his broken bone. The bone was found among the serial killer's numerous victims' skeletons in the catacomb of St Dunstan's Church.

Based on the historical figure comes the play Sweeney Todd, subtitled The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler.

It tells the story of Benjamin Barker, a London barber who in the story's past was sent as a prisoner to Australia by the unscrupulous Judge Turpin, who desired and subsequently raped Barker's wife. Years later, Barker returns to London calling himself Sweeney Todd and craving revenge against the Judge. He moves into a flat above a pie shop run by Mrs Lovett, who becomes his partner in crime. After being foiled in his attempt to kill the Judge, he goes mad and begins cutting throats indiscriminately; their bodies are then ground up and used by Mrs Lovett to fill her meat pies and thus restore her failing business. It was later noted that the actual Sweeney Todd's barbershop was not above the pie shop, but on ground level and connected to it via a catacomb of St Dunstan's Church.

Sweeney Todd is written in the style of operetta but with a Brechtian overlay. It was immediately based on a 1973 play, also called Sweeney Todd, by the British playwright Christopher Bond, though the story has been told in plays and stories since the early 19th century. The Sondheim work contains the notable songs "A Little Priest," "Pretty Women," "No Place Like London," and "Not While I'm Around."

Opened on Broadway at the Uris Theatre on March 1, 1979 and starred Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou. It won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and the Tony Award for Best Musical of 1979.

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The "Sweeney Todd", usually shortened to "The Sweeney", is Cockney rhyming slang for the Flying Squad an elite branch of the British police force specialising in armed robbery and violent crime. A television series "The Sweeney" starring John Thaw and Denis Waterman was popular during the 1970s and 1980s. It was produced by Euston Films, a subsidiary of Thames Television, for ITV.