Attend the Tale of Sweeney ToddWednesday, December 10, 2008 By Danielle Pham
What were the sounds coming from the auditorium during the time of the fall musical? Definitely not the same cheery songs about hormonal greasers, lonely goatherds, or a bunch of mattresses South’s thespians have sung about in the past. Instead, the air was filled with songs about eating priests and how everyone deserves to die. This fall, the dark tale of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street was presented. Sweeney Todd is the story of a mad barber whose whole life is consumed by revenge. This musical was filled to the brim with vicious killing, sinister intentions, and a good meat pie (if you’re into the whole cannibalism thing). The cast of characters in Sweeney Todd is definitely not the typical group of people met in classic musicals.Sweeney Todd, played by Jordan Boucher, sr., is a sadistic man consumed with thoughts of revenge and the urge to kill. At the beginning of the musical, he expected to come home to a wife and daughter after fifteen years in prison only to discover that his wife poisoned herself because an evil judge raped her and later adopted Todd’s daughter as his own. Along the way of that discovery, Todd stumbles upon a pie shop owned by the eccentric and slightly obsessive Mrs. Lovett, played by Olivia Howell, sr. As the deeper layers of the characters unfold, the obsession Mrs. Lovett has for Sweeney is blatantly obvious; Todd has a completely different obsession: revenge. Todd will not think of anything but exacting revenge on Judge Turpin, the sick man who tore apart his family, played by senior Scott Fagan. When Todd fails to kill Turpin even though he is practically under his knife, rage consumes him and now all he can think about is killing. But what to do with the bodies? Make delicious human pies of course! If there was ever a year to perform Sweeney Todd at South, it would be this one. This musical is known for its complex vocal styling and articulations, but to the cast it was only a slight obstacle. “It was the most difficult [musical] we’ve done in a few years,” said Boucher. “The music was ridiculously hard. There are not many high schools that can do it well.” And the numbers really make it show: only twelve other high schools in the country have performed it. In spite of the high difficulty level, the cast members had the talent to perform it spectacularly. “This is one of the only years we ever could’ve put on a show like this,” said senior Evan Haas, who played Tobias Ragg, an orphan boy who took quite a liking to Mrs. Lovett. “We definitely had the talent to play the parts than we would have had any other year,” said Howell. Howell’s character, Mrs. Lovett, brought laughter to a musical with such dark tones. The audience shook with laughter as Mrs. Lovett practically flew off the stage during her oddly cheerful song about baking human pies, but also a deep connection was made as Todd crooned his somber tale accompanied with a serious instrumental. Cast members agree that there has never been so much blood, killing, and cannibalism in one production ever before at South. “Usually in high school you do happy-go-lucky shows where everyone walks out cheerful. Sweeney Todd had very little happy moments,” said Haas. “We showed people there’s more to theater than just singing and dancing at the same time.” Oh yes, this musical was much more than just singing and dancing. Its underlying theme taught of the destruction society can have on people and that in dark, desperate times, there is no good guy and a bad guy can’t even be pinpointed. It is intriguing for South to actually be putting on a musical with such depressing themes and gore, but for the whole cast to put on such an outstanding performance shows that it was like Sweeney Todd was made for South’s theater in 2008.