The latest musical production at Utah Valley University features a cast that will challenge audience members to keep their wits -- and their heads -- about them.

Tony Award-nominee and Broadway regular Jeff McCarthy is set to star in the Stephen Sondheim macabre masterpiece "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," which opens Thursday at the Noorda Center For the Performing Arts. The musical, a co-production between the Noorda Center and the Utah Repertory Theater Company, will run through Nov. 9.

Appearing in the key role of pie-maker Mrs. Lovett will be Jacqueline Jones, a former UVU musical theater student who received the Outstanding Performance by an Actress Award from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for her role in the UVU production of "Next to Normal" in 2014.

McCarthy and Jones are both well acquainted with their "Sweeney Todd" roles, having each performed these characters to rave reviews in acclaimed Chicago area productions.

"We are thrilled and honored that Jeff (McCarthy) is able to join us for what is shaping up to be a truly remarkable 40th anniversary production of 'Sweeney Todd,' " said Stephen Pullen, dean and artistic director of UVU's School of the Arts, in a press release. "He's an extraordinarily gifted and generous artist at the very top of his craft, and the reviews he received for previous incarnations of the demanding role of Sweeney Todd are stellar."

Local favorite and Broadway star Will Swenson was originally set to helm the starring role, but was forced to withdraw when he was cast in a yet-to-be-named Netflix TV series.

"I apologize for this crummy timing with all of my music-loving heart," Swenson said in the news release. "Of all the lousy timing to get a big break! Sweeney Todd is a role I've dreamed of playing ever since I first heard the score when I was a kid. When (director) Tim Threlfall offered me the role, I jumped at the chance. I think I even joked on the phone, 'This will be great! As long as I don't get a cool part on a big new TV show.' That's exactly what happened and the reason I'm not able to come out and play."

"Sweeney Todd" tells the tale of a revenge-driven barber, who upon his return to London from an intentionally false imprisonment begins slitting his customers' throats, partnering with Mrs. Lovett, who bakes the bodies into her popular new meat pies.

Tickets range from $8-$45 and are available at https://uvu.universitytickets.com/w/event.aspx?id=2292.

-- Doug Fox