Small Landless Theatre gets unexpected buzz over plan to stage ‘Sweeney Todd’

Landless Theatre Company, a small Washington outfit known for satire and, perhaps more distinctively, cult rock dramas, has obtained permission to amp up a new prog metal version of “Sweeney Todd.” The concert staging is slated for 16 performances this August in the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church’s Undercroft Theatre.

Who’s orchestrating it? Will Landless, which offered the prog-rock opera “Frankenstein” last summer, put it together on their own, like a garage band?

(Courtesy Landless Theatre Company) - Promotional art work for the production of “Sweeney Todd” by Landless Theatre Company.

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“We’re figuring that out right now,” Andrew Lloyd Baughman, the company’s producing artistic director, said Thursday afternoon. He expects the core to be a prog-metal group with six to 10 pieces. “We’re used to working as a band, but ‘Sweeney’ is such a big piece, it might be nice to have one figurehead putting it together.”

Baughman posted the news Monday on the Web site DC Metro Theater Arts, where he sometimes writes about theater. The New York Times took note Wednesday, and Baughman says artists (and media) are swarming him with queries. He’s not sure how big the cast will be, but Baughman — who has played leads in Landless shows from “Frankenstein” to the gear-grinding “Diamond Dead” almost a decade ago — may get the nod to play Todd.

“It’s possible,” he laughed. “I hope. Yeah, probably.” His wife, Melissa Baughman, is set to direct.

For years, Landless performed at Adams Morgan’s District of Columbia Arts Center, a 45-seat venue with a dime-size stage. Landless recently has used GALA Hispanic Theatre’s Columbia Heights theater, among other venues.

The Stephen Sondheim musical will be the troupe’s first gig in the Undercroft, which was secured before Baughman knew which show he’d put in (though a rock project was agreed to by the apparently forbearing landlords — “I didn’t think the church was going to be a good space for the drunk frat-boy crowd,” Baughman said).

The unexpected buzz is a big deal for the troupe, which has an annual budget in the $60,000 to $70,000 range, according to Baughman. Landless will try to accelerate its fundraising for this project, though no budget has been set for the show itself.

For Sondheim completists dying to know, when will tickets go on sale?

“Let’s say within a month,” Baughman says.

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