Tuesday night I had occasion to travel to Dayton to get a preview of SWEENEY TODD at Human Race Theatre. As we entered the Loft Theatre, the invited guests were able to see the set under construction and some costumes out on the stage.
Artistic Director Kevin Moore welcomed us and introduced the staff of the Human Race Theatre for this, their 30th season. Then he turned things over to the director of the show, Scott Stoney. Scott himself has played Sweeney two different times – once at Wright State and again at The Victoria Theatre. So, while he’s intimately acquainted with the show, this is the first time Human Race has done it in their smaller home theatre.
And we are in for a real treat.
Stoney talked about how he intends to make this a thrillingly immersive theatrical experience for the audience. The actors will use all available space to tell this story. The set will be filled with characters and movement and Stoney turned things over to his set designer, Dan Gray, who gave us a thorough look at his research and showed some fascinating photos that helped him create his set design. It’s going to be visually very interesting!
Up next was the costume designer, Janet Powell. She demonstrated for us the versatility of the costumes she’s created by using a half-mannequin and various accessories. Talking about the utility needs of a show like this and her own research for the period (especially for sailor Anthony) was very interesting.
Propmaster Heather Powell then talked about baking the pies and finding the right consistency for the blood that will be used in the show. She also displayed one of the razor blades she’s had to dull in order to prepare for the needs of Sweeney. There was also some discussion of her concept and creation of the barber chair that will be used in the show and how it will function.
Sound designer Jay Brunner practically stole the show with a story about creating the sound “of a body falling down a chute” and nearly getting arrested by recording it himself in a dumpster in an alley near the theatre. And choreographer Tracy Bonner was very enthusiastic about her involvement in the show before the cast introduced themselves.
Like many shows at Human Race, this cast is made up from locals and New York-based actors, some of whom have local connections. Cassi Mikat, Drew Helton, Nathan Pecchia and Zack Steele are all Wright State students or graduates. Sherri Sutter and Jamie Cordes are on faculty at Wright State. DJ Plunkett, a recent CCM graduate, is in from New York as are Rebecca Watson and David McDonald. Resident Artists Scott Hunt and Aaron Vega are in the cast, too. The entire cast list will be available on the Human Race’s web site soon.
Finally, we were treated to a duet from Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd, accompanied by musical director Sean Michael Flowers. If this preview didn’t excite the folks in attendance, then I don’t know what would; this production is going to be fantastic and I can’t wait to see it! I’ll be there on opening weekend.
SWEENEY TODD runs from September 9th – October 2nd at the Loft Theatre in Downtown Dayton. Tickets (including season subscriptions) are available now by clicking here.