sweeney todd south valley civic theatre guillermo morales vivienne castillo
Guillermo Morales (Sweeney Todd) and Vivienne Castillo (Mrs. Lovett) star in South Valley Civic Theatre’s “Sweeney Todd,” opening April 28 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse. Photo: Chris Foster

Vivienne Castillo has what seems to be an impossible task: portraying the “most nefarious, evil person on earth” in a “charming” manner, she said.

Castillo is referring to Mrs. Lovett, the murderous woman who makes meat pies from the victims of her business partner.

Audiences will have to see for themselves how Castillo pulls it off when South Valley Civic Theatre brings its adaptation of “Sweeney Todd” to the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, opening April 28 and running select days through May 20.

“Sweeney Todd,” one of the most celebrated dark musicals that has won numerous awards and been performed worldwide over the past five decades, follows the titular character who seeks vengeance against a judge who sent him in exile for 15 years. The Victorian-era barber eventually meets up with Mrs. Lovett, and the two join forces at her pie shop where Todd’s victims are on the menu.

Megan Griffin, director of the SVCT version of the musical, said she was excited to take the helm of the production as a fan of “Sweeney Todd.”

“It’s definitely a thriller intended for mature audiences,” she said. “The audience will be on the edge of their seats the whole time. There are a lot of surprises. I wanted it to have the feel of hearing a scary ghost story around the campfire.”

She added that, as extreme the actions of the characters may be, there is something relatable within them. Everyone has their compassionate human side and their darker monster side, Griffin said, noting that “Sweeney Todd” is a cautionary tale that warns against letting revenge be all-consuming.

Castillo said she’s loved “Sweeney Todd” since she was 13. While riding in a school bus one day, she heard a girl behind her singing a song about cannibalism and other dark subjects.

Sparking her curiosity, Castillo learned the tune was from “Sweeney Todd,” adding that at the time, she was unaware that theater performances could take on such disturbing material.

Now, the musical is “deeply ingrained in my DNA.”

“It’s not like anything that Morgan Hill has ever seen before,” Castillo said. “It touches on some awful subjects. It talks about murder; it talks about cannibalism. But it’s one of the darkest, funniest shows and has been for the last 50 years.”

Guillermo Morales, who performs as Sweeney Todd, said those subjects are exactly why many people are turned off by the musical. But he’s hoping to change minds with the local performance, saying the musical is more than just about murder, but rather focuses on healing and humor with an incredible soundtrack by Stephen Sondheim.

“I really want to get people to enjoy this show,” he said. “We’ve got a great cast, and I’ve got a really good feeling for this character. I want people to see it early and come see it again.”

Morales, who despite having a lifelong love of theater and performed in many shows, has been cast in his first lead role.

“I’ve never gotten an opportunity to do something like this before,” he said. “It’s humbling and intimidating at the same time, but I’m so excited for the opportunity and really eager to put something great forward.”

Griffin said the cast and crew have been rehearsing since February, with everyone having bonded and ready to showcase their work to audiences.

“It’s got everything,” she said. “It’s got comedy, it’s got drama, it’s got terror. It’s blood and guts. It’s got everything you could want.”

“Sweeney Todd” runs select days from April 28 to May 20 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road. For information and tickets, visit svct.org/2023_sweeney.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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