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Playing the Crowd - Lessons From the Ensemble

By Sarah Ivins

What can I say about Sweeney Todd…?

To start, I’ll admit that when I heard that Pitt was going to produce was Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, I was apprehensive… It’s a big show, by any standard, and challenging in various aspects—from a complex score, to stage violence, to dance numbers, and so on and so forth. But I’ve fallen in love with this show, and I’ve enjoyed every little challenge it has offered.  

As a member of the Ensemble, it is one of my roles to create the city of London. We are individuals, yes, but as a whole we must create the terrible beauty of London circa the late 1800’s. It’s a tumultuous city filled with crime, corruption, poverty, class division, and, in Sweeney Todd, revenge. London is a fascinating character to portray—we (Londoners) are able to let our imaginations run pretty much wild creating various characters throughout the show. For instance, in the prologue, I am a woman grateful to Sweeney Todd, for the violence he has committed. In the next scene I’m the wife of a sailor, who has just returned to London. In St. Dunstan’s Market, I’m a flower seller, who doesn’t even know who this mysterious barber, Sweeney Todd, is… In Act II I even have the pleasure of being fire. Each of our characters change and evolve throughout the piece, creating a backdrop before which the tale of Sweeney Todd can be told.

The named character that I portray is Young Lucy. She is the wife of Benjamin Barker (whom we know as Sweeney Todd). Her story is told by Mrs. Lovett in the song, “Poor Thing.” Myself, and the cast portray the story of young Lucy via dance. It’s a heartbreaking piece—the events of this dance are, in part, what make Sweeney Todd who he is. All in a song barely more than three minutes long. The time is brief to tell, but the dance that Ariel Nereson choreographed captures the romance and innocence of Lucy’s love for Benjamin Barker, the lustful actions of the Judge, and the cruelty of the Londoners, absolutely beautifully.

There is more to share, but I’m off to rehearsal, so that’s all for now!

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Senior Theatre Arts and English Writing double major Sarah Ivins is keeping herself quite busy in this production. In addition to her roles as Young Lucy and an ensemble member, Sarah is swinging for the character of Johanna, which means that she has to learn three roles during the rehearsal period and be prepared to go on in the event that the lead Johanna cannot.