The Walters State Department of Music and Theatre will present Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” April 4-6.
The play is a musical thriller audience members won’t soon forget. The audience follows along as an infamous barber sets up shop in London. All is well with the new business until the clientele goes missing.
For director T.J. Kent, this play is a dream to direct. Kent, an instructor of theatre at Walters State, enjoyed introducing the dark musical to his freshman and sophomore students. He particularly loves this version, with its 1920s art deco spin.
For prospective audience members who saw the recent film starring Johnny Depp, Kent does issue a word of warning. While the play and the movie both stick to the major plot developed by Broadway icon Stephen Sondheim, Kent does have a few surprises in store.
“Fans of Sondheim and ‘Sweeney Todd’ won’t be disappointed, but I don’t want to give any of the elements away by talking about them now,” Kent said. One change many of the young actors noticed immediately was the play’s mood.
“Sweeney Todd, for the actor, is a very serious play. The humor is there to provide a break for audience members,” Kent explains.
Kent said the play has one of the largest casts in recent memory on the Walters State stage. In addition to eight leading roles, 26 other cast members are needed – creating an ensemble of sorts.
That ensemble has quite a bit of movement. To make those moves smoother, Kathy McDougail joins cast members on stage several times a week. She is an adjunct instructor, teaching dance on Walters State’s Sevier County Campus.
“Kathy is bringing so much to this performance. Her lessons have increased the confidence of our students. Kathy is a high-energy performer and all members of the audience have shared this,” Kent said.
With a large cast, community members fill several roles.
“I feel like Walters State, being a public institution and a community college, should involve the community in its arts programs whenever possible. This is an excellent chance. Community members also bring so much passion to the performance. Remember, these are not people who do this professionally. They are people who are willing to spend evenings for several weeks of rehearsal and want to put on their best show,” Kent said.
“When people are doing the arts for things other than a paycheck, there is always a lot of passion involved,” said Kent.
Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. All performances are in the Judge William H. Inman Humanities Complex on the Morristown campus. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $5 for students.
Full-time faculty and staff receive two free tickets. Part-time faculty and staff may reserve one free ticket.
To make reservations, call the Walters State Division of Humanities at (423) 585-6922. The box office is open 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tickets may also be available an hour before each show.
CUTLINE: “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” opens this weekend at Walters State Community College. Joshua Davis, seated, as Sweeney Todd and Tanna Purkey, as Mrs. Lovett, are part of a 26-member ensemble that brings this Stephen Sondheim musical to life.