Rounding off their spring semester season, DramaTech is pulling out all the stops with their production of Stephen Sondheim’s dark and gritty musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” The story, which revolves around a vengeful barber in 1800s England who develops a penchant for murdering his customers, is certainly controversial in terms of its violent subject matter; however, DramaTech has never been an organization to stray from controversy when artistic expression is on the line.
In the wake of opening night on Friday, Apr. 3, the Technique spoke with director Dustin Brown in regards to the pre-production of the show.
Technique: Is this DramaTech’s first production of “Sweeney Todd?” How does it compare to past productions in terms of scale?
Brown: While DramaTech has done several Stephen Sondheim plays throughout its 67 year history, this is the first time “Sweeney Todd” has been produced. As yet, there is no comparison for scale, but we think you’ll appreciate our imagining of this production.
Technique: The play itself is notoriously violent. Can audiences expect the traditional level of gore in DramaTech’s version?
Brown: We certainly haven’t shied away from gore in this production, it’s essential for the play to be violent. Audiences may be surprised though, we’ve avoided taking a literal and realistic approach to the violence — choosing instead to explore the more theatrical side of the play. But I believe we’ll meet expectations; the streets will run red.
Technique: What are some of the challenges you have faced so far in preparation for opening night?
Brown: Sondheim is a brilliant composer, but his music isn’t easy. He’s demanding of his soloists and his chorus, and to add to the challenge we are doing the play with just 14 actors and a five-piece orchestra. Everyone has to be at the top of their game. I’m incredibly proud of this cast and crew, every one of them has risen to the occasion. They’ve created a beautiful show.
Technique: How has the cast handled taking on a full-length musical?
Brown: The cast has done beautifully. Alli Lingenfelter, the music director, has done wonderful work leading these 14 talented actors to be a beautiful ensemble. The actors perform without any microphones, so everything the audience hears is their natural voice — and they sound splendid.
Technique: Is this version of “Sweeney Todd” a complete remake of the classic, or can viewers expect a few surprises come opening night?
Brown: The original play was an incredibly high tech broadway production in a proscenium house, we’re performing in a 100 seat black box. We had to create the streets and homes of London in a 14’ square, and the designers have accomplished something wonderful. I’ve just watched a full dress run of the show and it was incredibly exciting — the costumes are gorgeous, the lights are dazzling, the special effects stunning, the set and props are elegantly simple and the sound is magnificent.