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'Sweeney Todd': A killer musical

July 31, 2013|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE | crystal.schelle@herald-mail.com
  • Ashley Warfield plays Mrs. Lovett and Colt Smith plays Sweeney Todd in the Robinwood Players' production of "Sweeney Todd," opening Thursday, Aug. 1, at HCC's Kepler Theatre.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

It’s a musical filled with revenge, murder and human-stuffed meat pies.

Hagerstown Community College’s Robinwood Players will stage Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” The show opens Thursday, Aug. 1, at Kepler Theater on HCC’s campus, east of Hagerstown.

Cast as the blood-thirsty barber Sweeney Todd is Colt Smith. Smith, 27, of Hagerstown is an HCC student majoring in radiology and foreign language.

“Sweeney Todd is a vengeful man who was wronged when he lived in London. He was sent off to jail for 15 years,” he explained. “This is his story about his return to London to right his wrongs and reclaim his family.”

Smith, who has been doing theater since he was about 13 years old, said he signed up for the summer class because he was shy a few credits in arts and humanities.

He said he was excited to be working with the show’s director and class instructor, David Dull, because Smith had worked with him in a previous show, “Cabaret.”

“HCC is actually is stepping up its theater program a good bit,” Smith said. “I started here in 2004 and I did shows back then and it’s night and day difference of the caliber we have now.”

Because “Sweeney Todd” is not only a complex show, but is heavy musically, Smith said he did a lot of preparation.

“There’s not many shows that can keep you on your toes musically, like this one does with the time signature changes that happen and the different chords you have to sing,” he said. “It’s a lot of work. I listened to my CDs a lot. I went through a lot of batteries.”

Ashley Warfield, 19, of Hagerstown, plays Mrs. Lovett, the town pie-maker, Sweeney’s accomplice and chaser after the barber’s affections.

“Her main goal in the show is to get Sweeney Todd to love her,” Warfield explained. “And she does everything she can think of to achieve that goal. Some of the things she does aren’t very nice, but that’s just who she is. But she’s not going to stop what she’s doing until she gets what she wants.”

Warfield, a theater major at HCC, said she was familiar with the songs from “Sweeney Todd.”

“Mrs. Lovett was obviously my favorite character from the show. So when I found out we were doing the show, I was very excited,” she said. “I really wanted to audition. I worked really hard through my audition materials and stuff and I got the part.”

And although murder is often not the typical storyline for musicals, the music helps to lighten the mood. 

“The music is just beautiful,” Warfield said. “Some parts of the show are very dark — you have minor chords and everything —  but it just comes together in this beautiful symphony and that’s why people love it.”

She added that “Sweeney Todd” was staged in only eight weeks — shorter than usual.

“This has definitely has been the hardest show I’ve done,” Warfield said.

Dull, who is is adjunct faculty in theater, said the past couple of years he’s alternated between a musical and a Shakespearean play.

“This time we wanted to try to do something special because it’s a workshop more so than a regular class,” he said.

He said he specifically wanted to do “Sweeney Todd,” because it wasn’t a typical musical.

“I’m not a big fan of happy musicals like ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ or ‘Annie.’ I’m a big character-development director,” he said.

And Sondheim’s musical allows him to do just that.

“The character development and where the characters start and end in ‘Sweeney Todd’ is just a lot of fun to direct and work with the students on,” he said.

Dull said this is one of the most difficult productions they’ve had to stage, not only because Sondheim is musically challenging, but because they had less time to rehearse.

“‘Sweeney Todd’ is one of the hardest musicals to do, because of the different metering, and the tempos and the changing of keys,” he said. “That’s a challenge there in itself.”

Sydney Tooley, 20, of Fairplay, plays Johanna, Todd’s daughter.

“Johanna is a really sad character,” said Tooley, who is HCC student majoring in theater and film. “She’s been locked up her whole life in her bedroom by her creepy ‘father figure’ and he’s in love with her and wants to marry her — which is nasty. And when she sings ‘Green Finch (and Linnet Bird),’ I like to think of her as a bird. She’s kind of flighty. She’s sort of stuck in this cage.”

Tooley said the music is what she enjoys the most from the show.

“The music is great,” she said. “Sondheim is crazy, but his music’s amazing. All the songs are awesome. It’s dark but funny. It cracks me up. I think it’s hysterical. But it’s evil at the same time, but I think it has an great underlying story. That’s kind of cool.”

Jacob Waeyaert, 19, of Cavetown, signed up just for Dull’s theater class. He plays Johanna’s love interest, Anthony.

“I always wanted to be in ‘Sweeney Todd’ ...,” he said. “This is the first opportunity I had to do it, and I didn’t want to miss it.”

Waeyaert said he was attracted to the show because it is so different from other musicals.

“(It’s) definitely not like all the other shows I’ve done. (They) have been yippy and happy. This isn’t at all,” he said. “I wanted to be able to do more serious things and ‘Sweeney Todd’ is about as serious as you can get. And I wanted to be a part of that.”



If you go ...       

WHAT: “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, and Saturday, Aug. 3; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4. No show on Aug. 2.

WHERE: Hagerstown Community College’s Kepler Theater, off Robinwood Drive, east of Hagerstown

COST: $10; free for HCC students, staff and faculty

CONTACT: Go to www.hagerstowncc.edu.

MORE: Not recommended for children younger than 16


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