Fairmont’s ‘Sweeney Todd’ is a cut above the rest

When a man goes to his barber, he typically puts all his faith in him. Usually, he goes to the same barber every couple of weeks for years on end to get the same haircut and/or shave because he trusts that man to make him look good. And if a man must look for a new barber, it can be incredibly scary and stressful.

Now imagine how scary it would be if your new barber tried to kill you.

That’s the key plot element in Sweeney Todd, a musical that has a long and rich history. The String of Pearls first debuted on stage in 1847. However, in 1865 the play was rewritten and was renamed Sweeney Todd, the Barber of Fleet Street: or the String of Pearls, and the name Sweeney Todd stuck. The first Sweeney Todd films were created in 1926 and 1928, but in recent years, most of its popularity comes from the movie that came out in 2007 starring Johnny Depp.

This year, Kettering Fairmont High School has decided to take on the challenge of putting on this unusual musical. It will be presented at in the Kettering Fairmont High School Auditorium on April 22-24. It will be presented at 7 at night the first two shows and 2 in the afternoon for the final performance.

Sweeney Todd’s director and choir director Brody McDonald thinks the current reputation of the film presents a a challenge for the Fairmont cast and crew. “One of the hardest things is getting the kids out of the mentality of the movie,” he said. “Yeah, it’s going to be similar, but we obviously can’t do all the same things.”

McDonald thinks Fairmont students are doing well managing the production. “It’s an extremely challenging musical, and the cast is handling it very well. Most high schools can’t pull Sweeney Todd off,” he said.

In the past years, Fairmont has staged productions such as Guys and Dolls and Thoroughly Modern Millie. However, Sweeney Todd, a musical horror story, takes Fairmont to new and uncharted territories.

Senior Matt Letteri, who is playing Judge Turpin, the main antagonist in this year’s musical, thinks the transition to this new genre will show how diverse the cast is capable of being. “We’re really excited for the change into horror; we think it’ll work out extremely well. And we’re already really adapted to it,” he said.

Letteri also has to change his character for the play. “To be Judge Turpin, I have to be really creepy – which I think is one of my strong points,” he said.

But playing the creepy Judge Turpin isn’t the only challenge Letteri is facing in Sweeney Todd. “The biggest obstacle while rehearsing has been dealing with the complexity of the music,” he said.

Sophomore Matt Ebersbach said the time he’s spent practicing for the musical has been amazing. “I have really enjoyed working with the rest of the cast and on songs that show off all of our talent to each other,” he said.

Ebersbach can’t wait for the debut of Fairmont’s musical. “People should come see Sweeney Todd so that they can witness one of the greatest productions in school history, starring the legendary Bobby Symes,” he said.

Symes plays Sweeney Todd, the maniac barber who kills his customers. “The most challenging aspect of the musical is learning how to become him and key into his emotions. I basically have to learn to become a psycho who kills people, which is extremely difficult,” he said.

There is a lot of characterization that the cast has to deal with while playing their roles. “It’s hard for young people to tap in to the emotional level their characters have,” McDonald said. “For instance, Bobby Symes is 18, and his character is supposed to have been in prison 15 years. He can’t even remember 15 years.”

Because he’s the lead, Symes feels even more anxiety than he normally would while rehearsing. “I’m already feeling stressed while rehearsing, but I would say that a lot more stress comes from being the lead. Because I’m Sweeney Todd, I feel like there’s a lot resting on my shoulders,” he said.

And due to all the stress, Symes says he’s relieved to be working with such a great cast. “Everyone definitely brings out the best in me. I feel privileged just to be working with everyone,” he said.

The entire cast is extremely excited for the play to begin. “It’s wonderful because … it’s going to be awesome. Everything’s coming along nicely, and when the play debuts, it’s going to be the best night of my life,” Letteri said.

McDonald thinks the musical is traditionally “under attended because it’s not something the students think they’ll like.”  However, he thinks all that should change this spring. “If anyone comes to see the musical, this is the year. The story of Sweeney Todd will be cleaned up a little bit, but it’s still the same story. We’re going to have the orchestra on stage instead, an immense chorus, the lead is phenomenal and the stage design is incredible,” he said. “It’s going to be the best musical we’ve put on in 10 years.”

Tickets will be on sale through the month of April in the music office or at the door when the show performs. The cost is $8 for adults and $6 for students and senior citizens. Seniors with the Seniors Are Special pass can get in free.