THE ABUSE of power may lead its victims to go to extremes when seeking revenge.

“If you were Sweeney, what are you going to do? Would you allow yourself to [pursue] just mere revenge [or] to something more?” asked Jett Pangan, who plays the ferocious barber in Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group’s staging of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which opens this weekend.

“It’s an examination of how far people can be pushed under certain circumstances,” Tony and Olivier Award winner Lea Salonga, who takes on the role of Mrs. Lovett, said of the story’s characters.

The Tony award-winning musical is the third and final Stephen Sondheim musical to be staged in Metro Manila this year. Written by Hugh Wheeler, the musical marks its 40th anniversary since it premiered on Broadway in 1979.

Set in London during the Industrial Revolution, the story follows ex-convict Benjamin Barker who returns from exile and takes the name Sweeney Todd. While settling in a barbershop above Mrs. Lovett’s bakery, he plots to take his revenge on Judge Turpin, who convicted him even though he was innocent, and reunite with his wife and daughter, Johanna.

“We have gathered quite the cast for this retelling of Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical thriller. I think we will be bringing to the stage a unique version of Sweeney Todd as told by some of the best musical theater storytellers in the country, led by Lea Salonga and Jett Pangan. I am also so excited to be collaborating with a creative team full of geniuses in their craft. I can’t wait to begin,” director Bobby Garcia was quoted as saying in a press release.

During last week’s press launch at the Theatre at Solaire in Pasay City, Ms. Salonga noted her openness to play darker roles. “The thing about being an actor is that you should be open to playing both the good and the bad… You can’t always play the nice guy,” Ms. Salonga said. “I’d like to think that audiences are intelligent enough to be able to separate who I am in real life from who I am onstage as a character.”

Mr. Pangan admitted that “nothing prepared him” for the musical. “Two words — Stephen Sondheim. I almost hate the guy. But he’s a genius, no doubt. And to put his music into our bodies and tell the story was indeed a challenge for me,” Mr. Pangan said.

“This musical is not easy,” he added, pointing out that he saw Repertory Philippines’ staging in 2009 starring Audie Gemora as Sweeney Todd.

“When I saw that show in Greenbelt, I saw how difficult it was… I said to myself, ‘I’ll never do this thing,’” Mr. Pangan said. “And here I am. I respect the material so much.”

For Nyoy Volante, who takes on the role of Sweeney’s competitor, the barber Adolfo Pirelli, there is more to the show than just plain shaving.

“In theater, you have to flare (the actions) up a bit,” Mr. Volante said. “You have to watch it. We have different techniques that goes beyond shaving.”

Joining Mr. Pangan, Ms. Salonga, and Mr. Volante in the cast are: Ima Castro as the Beggar Woman; Gerald Santos as Anthony Hope; Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante as Johanna; Luigi Quesada as Tobias; Arman Ferrer as Beadle; and Dean Rosen as Jonas Fogg. Completing the ensemble are Steven Conde, Sarah Facuri, Christine Flores, Jep Go, Kevin Guiman, and Emeline Celis Guinid.

The show’s musical director is Gerard Salonga who will be conducting the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra.

Andrew Fernando, who plays the role of Judge Turpin, noted that ignorance of consequences of one’s actions makes the musical relevant in today’s society.

“People nowadays have very little grasp of consequences,” Mr. Fernando said. “We see a lot of that in the world today. That because of one’s desire to get what he wants or what she wants, nobody is looking at the consequences.”

Despite its dark and heavy themes, Mr. Volante interjected, “It’s a very nice show, ha.”

Sweeney Todd runs from Oct. 11 to 27, at the Theatre at Solaire. Tickets are now available at or through 891-9999. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman