The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, also known as bloodthirsty Sweeney Todd, descends on Montrose for a four-week run at the Magic Circle Theatre beginning Friday, May 11. On Tuesday afternoon, Director Mark Smith and some stagehands were putting the finishing touches on Mrs. Lovett’s Shop, where Sweeney has his victims baked into pies. Smith had been, so to speak, licking his chops at the thought of directing Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant, intricate musical ever since he saw it on Broadway with Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou in the leads back when he lived in New York. “I’m frankly not a big fan of musicals,” he said. “But this one knocked my socks off.” He’d been discussing the possibility of bringing it to Magic Circle for some time, he said. Now, “We felt like we had the talent.”
Talent isn’t the only thing required to do this musical justice, however. “It’s quite a complex production, and requires a great effort from the cast and crew,” Smith pointed out. For one thing, although it’s a musical, almost nothing is sung is unison: “It’s almost an operetta.” (Indeed, Sondheim called it “a black operetta.”) Just 20 percent of the words in the score are spoken. When voices combine, “It makes for some beautiful, blending ballads,” Smith noted. “But it also makes for discordant singing. The ranges are pretty huge, even for the chorus. It’s challenging, difficult.”
And then there are the technical aspects; the staging, for example, “involves some bodies disappearing into the set.” In his audition notes, Smith advised the cast, “Don’t bother watching the movie starring Johnny Depp” to get a feel for the real Sweeney. “While I liked the film, Tim Burton’s film is very dark. There are touches of darkness in the play, but it also has lighthearted moments in it. I don’t want people to think they’ve already seen the real thing. I would also say that the singing in our play is much better than it is in the movie. Much better.” Sweeney Todd runs weekends through June 3.
Ouray County Chorus Spring Concert
From Broadway show tunes with an evil edge in Sweeney Todd, to uplifting Broadway songs, via Hollywood…the Ouray County Chorus, over 30 voices strong, presents its spring concert Sunday evening under the direction of Ouray School music teacher Andre Wilkins. This year’s theme is “Music from the Silver Screen.” The chorus has been rehearsing with Wilkins on Tuesday evenings at Ridgway’s United Church of the San Juans. The selections for this concert, the final one until their holiday show next December, include “Music of the Night ” (Phantom of the Opera), “Don’t Cry for Me (Argentina)” (Evita), and “Hallelujah” from Shrek. “We rely on donations to buy our music,” which isn’t a lot of money, says Jacquie Zimmerman, who sings alto in the Chorus and is also its treasurer. “So sometimes we work with music we already own.” This year, the members ponied up for “Music of the Night” and “Tonight,” from West Side Story. The rest of the selections are from members’ own archives. The chorus has worked with Wilkins the past three years. Almost all of them are non-professional singers (their ranks include an attorney, a caterer, a retired teacher and an author), and they always get “a little nervous before each concert, but we always pull it together,” Zimmerman says. They wait for Wilkins’ praise. Shortly before each concert, he will finally tell them, “You guys are doing really well.” And, Zimmerman says, “That’s exhilarating.” Admission to the concert, at 7 p.m. at the 4-H Center, is free. Donations are appreciated.
In Ridgway: Student Art Show and Finding the Rowdys
This year’s student art show at the Ridgway School is winding down; today is its last day. On offer last week were ceramics, paintings, graphic works and more. Many of the pieces were not only beautiful, but surprisingly sophisticated (as one onlooker remarked, “This stuff could be in a New York studio. It’s unbelievable”). Nancy Donegan, an art teacher at the Ridgway school, says her students are occasionally approached to sell their works from the show, and one student is in negotiations with a buyer right now. “I tell them not to charge more than $100,” she says judiciously. They are only beginning their careers, after all. Other artwork, from more-seasoned artisans but intended for a more-youthful audience, is also on display around Ridgway this week: the Flat Rowdys are in town. Rowdy is the Siberian Husky whose owner, Beth Williams, brings him to the library once a month to be read to by its youngest patrons. “Some kids struggle to read, but it’s not a struggle to sit there by Rowdy, because he’ll lick ya,” library volunteer Gail Kennedy says. Williams, Kennedy’s sister-in-law and also President of the Friends of the Library, conceived the idea of a Flat Rowdy: wooden pieces in the silhouette of her dog, decorated by local artisans, and strategically placed around town in stores, restaurants and other places. The Friends hope patrons will track down the Rowdys (for a list of the dogs’ locales, visit the library), choose their favorites, and then bid on one at the library fundraiser from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 12. Don’t look for the real Rowdy at the Library that day, or for that matter, any of Williams’ other huskies (“Air,” her female, also makes an occasional appearance to read with local kids). “There’ll be too many shoes” in attendance at the fundraiser for delicate paws, Kennedy says. “It could get awkward.”