Scary stories have always been popular. And when you present a truly bloody horror story on stage with a great cast and terrific songs, the result is even more irresistible.
The resulting mashup of mayhem and music is called “Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
“Yeah, there’s going to be quite a lot of blood. Definitely a lot of special effects makeup and that kind of stuff, too.”
That is veteran director Naomi Rose-Mock. Even while standing at the helm of the recent summer student production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at Tallahassee’s Leon High School, she was also prepping for this weekend’s Sweeney Todd opening at the venerable Quincy Music Theatre.
“Our concept going into this show was when it was originally staged by Hal Prince in 1979 with Stephen Sondheim. His idea behind the show was the fact that the industrial revolution in London was dehumanizing people so in essence we were cannibalizing our own culture,” Rose-Mock said.
Of course, there was a movie version of Sweeney Todd starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter that came out 10 years ago. But Rose-Mock said her stage version borrows much of its visual identity from another film. The result is a disturbing, surrealistic look that combines a steam-punk sensibility with characters that are almost – but not quite – escapees from the “Living Dead.”
“There was a movie that came out in the late 90s called ‘Ravenous’. All of the people in that have hollowed-out cheeks and very bright eyes from the beginning. They don’t look quite human. And our ensemble has done a great job embodying that hunger and that feeding frenzy that we have throughout the show.”
Rose-Mock said there are 26 people in the cast, the principals all seasoned veterans of local community theatre and collegiate stages.
“Miss Lovett is Melinda Melendez. The last thing you may have seen her play in was Eva Peron in ‘Evita’ at Theatre Tallahassee. She’s stunning!” she said, ticking off some of the major characters. “Shawn McCulley is Sweeney Todd and I think the last thing he was George in ‘Les Cages Aux Folles’ also at Theatre Tallahassee. Andre Peele is playing Judge Turpin and he was last seen as The Beast in ‘Beauty and the Beast’, playing a slightly different, darker character. Dan Hall is playing The Beadle and most recently he was in ‘Jesus Christ: Superstar’ and he also played Leo Bloom last summer in ‘The Producers’. And then we have Carlie Adams who’s an FSU opera student who’s playing Johanna and she’s as lovely as Johanna should be.”
And then, there’s the Sondheim score that adds even more delightful gruesomeness to the proceedings.
“And I have to mention my terrific Music Director Dr. Judy Arthur who I always enjoy working with and this is our second collaboration at Quincy Music Theatre. We did ‘Beauty and the Beast’ together as well, as well as our collaborations with the Leon High summer shows and ‘West Side Story’ at Theatre Tallahassee last year, and she’s just a pleasure to work with.”
For Rose-Mock, one of the Big Bend’s busiest and most experienced theatrical directors, this cast counts as among the best she’s worked with.
“It’s always such a privilege and an honor to work with people who are so talented and the fact that this is all volunteers, the caliber of talent that we get and the love that people give donating their time and talents that gets to us is very humbling for me.”
The curtain’s going up soon on this wonderfully gory production.
“We open this Friday the 18th and run through the following Sunday (Aug. 27).”
All the Quincy Music Theatre. If you saw movies there as a kid, you remember it as “The Leaf”. It stopped showing movies in 1980 and re-opened as the Quincy Music Theatre 3 years after that.