Just in time for Halloween, the Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” arrives at Broadway Center for the Arts (BCA) to the macabre delight of Knoxville and Maryville audiences. Shows will take place Oct. 25-29 at the Chilhowee Club, located at 223 Clarion St. in Maryville, a short walk from campus.
Sondheim’s iconic musical tells the tale of a resourceful pie shop owner and a murderous barber who is willing to cut down all in his path for revenge. Cast out by the corrupt Judge Turpin and the conniving Beadle Bamford, Sweeney eventually returns to London, years later, in search of his long-lost family. He forms an unlikely alliance with his former neighbor, Mrs. Lovet, who runs a pie shop underneath his former establishment. Together, they wreak havoc on Fleet Street and serve the citizens of London.
The producer of the show, Amanda Rader, gave insights into their own cast, crew and production of the musical.
Why did the theater decide to perform “Sweeney Todd” this year? “We performed another Stephen Sondheim classic, “Into the Woods” last year, and it was an incredible show both for the actors and our audiences. We enjoy doing something that fits the Halloween season each year, and we thought “Sweeney Todd” fit the bill perfectly. Plus, the Broadway revival of the show with Josh Groban, Annaleigh Ashford and Gaten Matarazzo has been a huge success, so we thought now would be a great time to bring it to our local community.”
What have been some of the most interesting and fun parts of the production thus far? “There have honestly been so many! First of all, Stephen Sondheim’s music is incredibly challenging. We have an amazing music director for this production, Paul Jones with Auralation Studios. He brings a wealth of knowledge and a passion that is contagious. We are thrilled that our actors have the opportunity to work with him on this project. We are also very excited to be in the Chilhowee Club. It is a unique space that is going to lend itself very well to create an intimate and eerie place for audiences to experience this show. We have two talented [casts] for this production, so it’s been really fun to see how each cast brings its own interpretation of the characters and songs to life on the stage. It’s been a joy to work with these young actors. We’ve also had lots of fun working with our student tech crew to hand-sculpt lots of meat pies and other really unique props and sets.”
Are the cast familiar and excited with the show and the roles they have been assigned? “When we announced that we had licensed the show as part of the second half of our 2023 season, the kids literally exploded with excitement on stage. They were thrilled that we were going to perform Sondheim again and tackle this challenging show. They’ve also brought 100% to rehearsals, so yes…we think they are really excited to be part of this production.”
Why should audiences come and view the BCA’s production of Sweeney Todd? “It’s going to be a great show! We have two troupes of incredibly talented students who have worked really hard to bring this musical thriller to life on stage. What better way is there to usher in the Halloween season than to come [and] experience this unique dark comedy that has been taking audiences on a wild theatrical ride into the macabre since 1979?”
Additionally, the BCA faculty has made a conscious effort to be inclusive and more accessible to disabled members of their viewing audience. The musical is set to have ASL (American Sign Language) signers present at certain dates for hearing impaired and deaf audience members.
If you are looking for something humorously dark and deceptively delicious to laugh and scream at with your friends this Halloween, head on over to the Chilhowee Club and stick around Maryville College for the Broadway Center for the Arts’ “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”.