Are you ready for a tale of rape and madness, bloody lust and revenge? Are you prepared for an account of the horror that lies in each of us, just waiting for its moment to strike? Imagine a story so full of deceit, murder, sexual drive – and of course the inevitable love story- that it could only be set in 19th-century London, and with a musical score by one of the great American composers.
If you think you are ready, then go on, but be on your guard as you enter the world of the one and only Sweeney Todd. This weekend, the Eastman Opera Theatre performs the musical thriller “Sweeney Todd, Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” with words and music by Stephen Sondheim.
The story of Sweeney Todd is that of Benjamin Barker, a barber who once owned a shop that serviced socially-prominent members of society. He was a happy man with a beautiful wife and a young daughter, and life for the Barkers was good. But as quickly as the sky can darken and rain on a sunny day in London, the fortunes of the Barkers changed for the worse.
A greedy and self indulgent judge and his crooked beadle come to lust after Benjamin’s wife. After she repeatedly refuses to sleep with them, the judge and beadle use their power to have the innocent Benjamin arrested and sent to Botany Bay under false charges, leaving behind a defenseless wife and daughter.
The two have their way with the woman, and the experience drives the poor dear mad. The girl is then taken in and adopted by the judge. Everyone thinks Benjamin is gone for good, but no. He returns under the guise of Sweeney Todd, a barber as well, who becomes known for his extremely “close” shaves, and the meat pie business below his shop that starts to boom once he gets his first customers.
Bringing life to the sad souls and characters are two alternating casts of Eastman voice students who “are all amazing actors, who really inspire each other to work harder,” Munenori Sugitani, one of the students playing the role of Judge Turpins, said.
There will be a total of four performances in this weekend, featuring two different casts. The casts are made up of Ted Christopher and J.J. Hudson as Sweeney Todd, Alta Boover and Abby Fischer as Mrs. Lovett, Carl DuPont and Jonathan Michie as Anthony Hope, Erin Snell and Annamarie Zmolek as the beggar woman, Sam Haddad and Sugitani as Judge Turpin, Dan Hinson and Allen Stowe as the beadle, Karen Sorenson and Debbie Stanley as Johanna, Michel Kelly as Tobias Ragg and Pablo Bustos and Drake Danzler as Pirelli.
Musical accompaniment is provided by a student chamber orchestra of Eastman music students. The music director of this show is Benton Hess, a professor of voice at Eastman, who is sure to bring out the best sound possible.
The show is directed by Steven Daigle, who himself promises to bring a new perspective to this classic and bring back the essence of traditional theatre.
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The music and lyrics are responsible for carrying the meaning, story and message of the piece, which was written by Steven Sondheim, “really one of the great American Composers – [his music] is really powerful,” said Sugitani. It is a score full of dramatic romantic sound, with melodies that are sure to stay with you after the final curtain drops.
The story is full of diabolic twists and turns, set to a score of powerful sound and impact. But to see how the music and story play out the revenge of Sweeney Todd, you will have to be there.
The show will be in Kilbourn Hall, with performances at 8 p.m. on this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There will also be a matinee at 2 p.m. this Sunday. Reserved tickets for the opera are $20, $16, $13 and $8. They are available in person at the Ticket Express Box Office or its new location in the main hall of Eastman during its business hours. Tickets also are available by phone at 232-1900 or online at www.ticketmaster.com. If the concert has not sold out beforehand, tickets may also be purchased at the Kilbourn Hall Box Fffice one hour prior to the start of each performance.
Bozzella can be reached at email@example.com.