By Michael Chisholm
This winter, brought to you by Actor’s Express, just down the street from the Georgia Aquarium, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” returns to Atlanta.
It’s the story of a desperately wronged barber and his murderous thirst for revenge after a lustful judge takes away his wife and daughter. This production of the gothic musical of the throat-slitting barber is reimagined through the insightful vision of director Freddie Ashley.
When asked why he chose to take on Sweeney Todd, Ashley said it was actually the title actor, Kevin Harry, who brought the idea to light. Harry, who played the same role in his youth, leads an ensemble cast in this new vision that departs from the usually monochromatic cast. He is one of the few African-American actors to tackle this iconic role.
Harry said that he enjoys exploring the character’s fall from grace and what creates this not-so-evil, rather misunderstood psychopath. He said he was “intimidated by the role at first” but he “respects the cult following the character has and only hopes to do it justice.”
Freddie said that Harry’s humble nature and strong talent made him a natural choice for the role. With Sweeney cast, Freddie then faced the task of bringing the world of Sweeney back to the stage.
“It’s about staying relevant, exploring how a show relates to our lives as we are living in this moment in time,” said Ashley. Rather than directly control the exact flow of the musical, Ashley prefers to let the play speak for itself and flow organically.
He chose to stay true to the dialogue and music of the original and divert only slightly. Rather than sticking to the Victorian London setting, for example, the cast jumps forward a few decades in terms of the clothing, settling on a more Edwardian style. And the city itself takes on a more World War I feel in terms of a highly industrial setting.
Ashley was aware from the get go that the Actor’s Express was going to limit the size of the production. The production team adapted a smaller stage to make London feel grittier and claustrophobic, and to emphasize the fear of the unknown and possibility of ruin for the citizens.
“Sweeney has a huge following, and anyone who loves the musical will enjoy this show,” said Ashley.
So if you’re feeling a little unkempt going into the new year, take a trip down to Actor’s Express for a quick shave. Sweeney’s waiting.
Want to go?
When? Jan. 23 – Feb. 28
Where? Actor’s Express, 887 West Marietta Street NW, Suite J-107, Atlanta, GA 30318