This weekend, the Gustavus Department of Theatre and Dance, will be presenting Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Tickets for the show went on sale Tuesday, February 7 at 8:30 a.m., and were sold out within 45 minutes. It was evident that Gustavus students and staff, as well as the families and friends of the cast and crew, were eager to get their seats to see this production.
Traditionally, Gustavus has done a musical every other year with last January being the year of the musical. Because of the popularity of musicals among students, the theatre department sees many actors and actresses who only audition every other year for the musical and not for the plays.
This year’s production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, is an experimental slot in the 2016-2017 theatre season, where the department has evaluated what future theatre seasons might look like here at Gustavus.
Students involved in the production rehearsed throughout the month of January, holding music rehearsals in the mornings, then blocking and acting rehearsals in the evenings. First-year student Stephanita Zumberg has loved being a member of the ensemble for Sweeney Todd.
“I acted in high school, and it was really fun. I love musicals so much, and I really wanted to be in theatre here, too,” Zumberg said.
Associate Professor in Theatre and Dance and LALACS and Director of Sweeney Todd Henry MacCarthy has been creative throughout the rehearsal process of the piece. He’s decided to take a different approach to directing and presenting the show.
Rather than having a large pit orchestra, they are only using a keyboard for accompaniment. The actors are also not using microphones, and each show will only seat fifty-nine people.
“The acting style is different, the quality of movement is different, how we use our voices is different, and how people move in space is different. In terms of rehearsing it’s the same but you’re working for a different space, so it changes all the things we do drastically,” MacCarthy said.
The cast members and MacCarthy have described the show as being extremely intimate, which is the main reason for such a small audience. Because of this intimate setting, the audience has the rare opportunity of understanding the characters on a deeper level.
“I think you can relate to the characters, and how they’re feeling,” Zumberg said.
Senior Theatre major Chase Adelsman believes that within the intimate space created in the show, the audience will notice and focus more on details than if they were seeing it as a grand piece of theatre.
“It’s a lot of more subtle characterization, but it will read very large in the space we have created,” Adelsman said.
Another unique vision that the cast, crew, and director have implemented in this show was the choice to present the story from an insane asylum, rather than the traditional setting in London.
Along with this vision, members of the ensemble had the opportunity to develop their own character and the reasons why they are in the insane asylum.
“It’s an ensemble piece, which means that everybody in the piece contributes to the overall story. Characters are sort of indispensable.” MacCarthy said.
Everyone in the cast has worked extremely hard to make the show what it is today, including Adelsman, who is honored and excited to be playing the title role.
“It’s really rewarding, but also stressful. I worked very, very hard to get this role. This role is one that I was determined to get from when the season was announced, so it took a lot of focus,” Adelsman said.
Anyone attending the show can expect to feel a bit scared, unnerved, and disturbed following the performances. However, the compelling story of Sweeney Todd also provides meaningfulness, includes a large amount of symbolism, and showcases the talent of our theatre
students here at Gustavus, making it enjoyable for both the audience and the performers. “The majority of people know the story of Sweeney Todd, so I’m really curious to see how people consume our version of it,” MacCarthy said.