5 Things to Know about Selma Arts Center’s ‘Sweeney Todd’
How to attend this tale of “Sweeney Todd”? Let’s do it by the numbers. Selma Arts Center is in the opening weekend of Stephen Sondheim’s bloody classic musical. For the preview, I offer Five Things to Know about the show. (I’m a bit late with this, I know, but I was feeling rather ill after eating a meat pie.)
1. It has a killer cast, including the guy with the straight-edge razor.
Anytime you get a chance to see Chris Carsten in a local production, take it. He brings years of professional experience and a riveting stage presence to every role he tackles. In Selma’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” Carsten plays the leading role of the menacing barber who returns to London after an unjust 15-year incarceration. Who in his position wouldn’t want revenge?
Director Joseph Ham was excited when Carsten showed up for auditions.
“I’d seen him on stage a couple of times in the past, and you don’t need me to tell you what a joy he is to watch,” Ham says. “However, the moment I KNEW he was our Sweeney was during our callback readings. His vocals were outstanding, as expected, but his reading was so powerful and nuanced that it had the entire room watching intently. Watching him grow into his character throughout the rehearsal process has been a joyous experience. Our entire cast has done an outstanding job rising to meet the challenges of this monster of a musical, but Chris brings an unmatched level of talent, and also of constant professionalism and kindness.”
2. In terms of blood, don’t expect buckets.
“But don’t fret,” Ham says. “We’ve taken a fairly unconventional, artistic approach to many of the aspects in Sondheim’s masterpiece, one of them being the blood. It is most certainly there; however its application is very … purposeful. I’ll say no more than that. Have to maintain an air of mystery!”
3. Expect the unexpected when it comes to Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett’s special barber’s chair.
“The route we’ve gone with this ‘apparatus’ is another slightly unconventional aspect of our production, but one that allows the audience’s eye to linger a little longer on Sweeney’s deeds,” Ham says.
4. Do you think of “Sweeney” as a park and bark musical? Think again.
Choreographers Ben Deghand and Michael Christopher Flores have designed a more fluid, movement-oriented approach to the musical instead of the more conventional approach of parking performers in one spot and leaving them there. (Ham wants to keep vague to keep the air of mystery.)
5. Ready for a “Sweeney” all done in pastel shades of yellow and pink?
Don’t worry. You won’t get that with this production.
“As is expected with Sweeney Todd, red and black play a big part in the color scheme of our production,” Ham says. “However, both our costumer designer (Theo Hill) and our lighting designer (David Esquivel) have taken every available opportunity to throw many other colors into the mix, and to great affect.”