“Attend the tale!” The first production of this year’s Motyer-Fancy Theatre season, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, is currently rehearsing. The cast, crew, and creative team have been eagerly preparing a show on track to be a great kickoff to the theatre’s season. The hit musical from the late legendary composer Stephen Sondheim premiered in 1979 and is a drastic departure from the conventionally “sing-songy” and “cheesy” nature often associated with musicals. This dark, jarring, and deeply complex piece of theatre provides a welcome challenge to all who work on it, and an utterly thrilling night of theatre for audiences.
Based on the British macabre Penny Dreadful tales, Sweeney Todd centers around the titular barber, a man who was wrongfully convicted by a corrupt judge and returns from his incarceration with a thirst for blood. After being rescued by a young sailor, Todd’s homecoming to London is complicated when he meets Mrs. Lovett, a struggling meat pie shop owner. By combining their talents for barbering and butchering, Todd and Lovett find ways to not only boost their business but also enact revenge. As you probably can imagine, this has given the cast a ton of material to (for lack of a better word) sink their teeth into.
Despite posing meaningful challenges, the production has been an absolute joy to rehearse this past month-and-a-half. The show is full of captivating melodies, and complex harmonies, all set to a dark and gripping book by Hugh Wheeler. Many of the cast members have been working hard to hone not only the technicalities of the characters they portray but the insanities they have to embody as well. Sarah Tardif, a fourth-year English and drama double major is a member of the show’s chorus and also the Motyer-Fancy’s Front-of-House technician. She described to me how she feels about being a part of telling this story: “Sweeney Todd, to me, is a musical that features great themes of betrayal, revenge, and trust primarily, that’s what makes it a great story.” For some, immersing themselves in the story of Sweeney Todd has been a part of their process. Maika Branch, a third-year English and drama double-major, plays the loveable and slightly crazed piemaker Mrs. Lovett. “It’s a very well-known story […] about one man’s obsessive journey to revenge after he has been wronged, and all the people he drags down with him.” Amanda Godin is completing a DRAM-4011 independent study musical directing Sweeney Todd. She has a particular connection to the musical, as it has already shown up in her previous courses. “It is a show that I have studied here at Mt. A; I actually took a Sondheim course. The music is so complex and for me, doing it as a course, I am able to use my music skills but also complete coursework on the show. It is not a musical you see every day.” This just goes to show that the productions offered at the Motyer Fancy Theatre are meant to not only be thrilling and fun to work on but also provide educational opportunities to students. Taking all of this into account, you should make your way over to the Purdy Crawford Centre for the Arts and attend this tale. I am certain you will not regret it!
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street runs from October 25 to 28 at the Motyer Fancy Theatre. Tickets are now available on Eventbrite, with limited tickets available for cash at the door. Thursday, October 26 is a pay-what-you-can performance, with cash-only tickets available at the door.