Allyn taking big artistic risk with 'Sweeney Todd' role

November 9, 2011
Written by: Doug Shanaberger
Published by: Washington Observer

Theo Allyn was lovably quirky as a young Carol Burnett in "Hollywood Arms" at Little Lake Theatre, and she brought a tremulous vulnerability to the performances she gave as a suspected kidnapper in "Violet Sharp" for Terra Nova Theatre Group.

What then is she doing at the University of Pittsburgh as Nellie Lovett, a demented pastry baker who forms an alliance with a razor-wielding madman in Stephen Sondheim's musical thriller "Sweeney Todd"?

Going through "one of the scariest, most challenging theatrical experiences I've ever had," said the actress, who stars in the controversial classic opposite Richard Teaster. "I am not even remotely a trained singer and have never tackled Sondheim."

Yet if this beast of a Victorian melodrama, with its literal cutthroat activity and flashes of dark comedy, sends a rush of fear up and down her spine, she considers the reaction "a good scared" and uses it to her advantage.

"It's the kind of scared that tells me I am actually taking a risk, that I might fail," Allyn told me Sunday, three days after "Sweeney Todd" opened at the Stephen Foster Memorial on Pitt campus. "There's nothing safe about doing this show, especially the way we're doing it. And I'm exhausted. But profoundly grateful."

The "way we're doing it" evidently refers to the grandeur in this production, as opposed to the scaled-down interpretation of the 2005 Broadway revival. Lisa Jackson-Schebetta, directing her first musical for Pitt Repertory Theatre, wants audiences to be swept up by the excitement and exhilaration in "Sweeney Todd," from its first bloody murder to a denouement in which all scores are settled.

"It's mind blowing how creative she is, and she trusted me to help tell this story," said Allyn of Jackson-Schebbetta, whom she also praised as "an incredibly generous, inspiring and brave artist."


Read the full article on the Observer's website