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Schools to get slice of ‘Demon Barber’ pie; Portion of ticket sales on 6 nights will be donated

By Staff | Oct 15, 2008

Some of the ticket revenue for the January production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” will be sliced away to benefit the Lee County School District.

The musical opens at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall on Jan. 27. For the first time ever, 25 percent of the ticket prices collected from six different nights will go to area schools.

Three of the shows in January will benefit North Fort Myers High, Ida S. Baker High and Challenger Middle. People purchasing tickets will choose which school receives the percentage of the ticket price based on the night they attend.

Scott Saxon, general manager of the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, said this is the hall’s first fund-raising partnership with the school district. Previously the center had entered into similar arrangements with local non-profit organizations.

“We essentially opened up the entire week run of ‘Sweeney Todd’ for any schools who wanted to participate,” said Saxon.

Ticket prices vary but Saxon explained the percentage given to local schools could be as much as $15 per ticket. Similar fund-raising partnerships over the last year and a half in 11 different shows, including “The Producers” and “White Christmas,” have raised $20,000.

“It is doing well and it is important for us to be a good member of the community and it is an easy win-win project for everybody,” said Saxon. “The patron gets to see a fantastic show and the school can raise a little money.”

While the schools are free to use the money as they wish, Saxon explained that the original intent of the program was to assist local band and music programs. These types of programs are typically the first to be cut in difficult budgetary times, yet raising money with “Sweeney Todd” seemed a perfect fit for local high schools trying not to eliminate the arts.

“It is a hot topic now with the Johnny Depp movie and it appeals to high school kids,” he said. “It was a natural fit with the high school music departments.”

The dark musical-comedy has been popular for three decades.

It originally opened on Broadway in 1979 with the musical compositions of Stephen Sondheim. The story centers around a murderous barber named Sweeney Todd who vows revenge wielding his straight-edge razor for being sent to prison on false charges.

Todd spends his time murdering those on Fleet Street who come to his shop for a shave or cut, while his neighbor, Mrs. Lovett, surreptitiously devises a way to dispose of the bodies within her own trademark meat pies.

As the show concludes and his plan unravels, Todd begins to learn the real devastating consequences of revenge.

In 2007 it was adapted to the silver screen in a film directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. It was also originally adapted from a book by Hugh Wheeler.

For more information or to order tickets, visit: www.bbmannpah.com.