Southwestern Michigan College presents its spring musical, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” Feb. 28 and March 1-3 in the theatre of the Dale A. Lyons Building on the Dowagiac campus.
The production stars Noah Yardley of St. Joseph in the title role, Kayla Rose of Paw Paw as Mrs. Lovett and Joshua Bennett of Berrien Springs as Judge Turpin.
SMC Manager of Theatre Operations and Applied Performing Arts Marcus Roll directs and produces the Victorian revenge tale of the London barber Benjamin Baker who assumes an alias to resume work in his shop above Mrs. Lovett’s Pies.
Swearing vengeance on the judge who falsely exiled him, Todd and Lovett hatch a sinister plan leading down a dangerous path with deadly consequences. It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1979 psychological thriller with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler.
“This will be our first show since we upgraded the theatre with LED and motorized lights,” Roll said. “Our maintenance department built our steel chair, our 3-D design class is building 65 percent of our props and another art class is coming in to draw the set. It’s a wonderful way to work across departments.”
“I’ve always described this show as very sophisticated,” said Roll, who considers it Sondheim’s best. “The thematic material and character development are there beginning to end. There’s not one protagonist, but antagonists working against each other, and the way the composer disrupts musical themes creates chaos and unease - it’s stellar!”
Ninety percent of the 30-member cast is college students, with a few alumni and high school students. Cast members include Michael Hayes as Anthony Hope, Megan Yacobozzi as Johanna, Anaya Roschyk as Tobias Ragg, Steven Anderson as Beadle, Brittany Schesnuk as the beggar, Jacob Walker as Adolfo Pirelli and Matt Bennett as Jonas Fogg.
Yardley, a music education major, said, “I’ve done seven musicals, but I didn’t like them as a kid. Back in 2013, I was falling behind on school work, so my father made me join (Twin City Players’ ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’) to develop more responsibility. I just fell in love with musical theatre, which is now one of my passions. My character in this show is mildly sociopathic with so many layers and depth,” Yardley said. “He spent 15 years at hard labor in Australia, so he’s seeking revenge for his life being ruined.”
“After SMC I plan to transfer to Central,” Yardley continued. “Once I get my bachelor’s, I’m going for my master’s at the University of Michigan. My goal is to teach college like (SMC Director of Choral Activities) Dave Carew.”
Rose, a veteran of almost 20 shows, is auditioning to transfer schools, including Oakland, Central Michigan and Western Michigan universities, to double major in vocal performance and music education. “I want to do both,” the clarinetist said. “I want to start off teaching high school and doing shows in the summer, go back and get my master’s and doctorate, then teach at a university. My character’s the comic relief. She’s head over heels in love with Sweeney.”
Attending SMC’s 2017 Musical Theatre Camp for “Children of Eden” cinched her enrollment. Summer camps with Carew, Roll and voice teacher Heidi Ferris also influenced Yardley. “The faculty here is incredible,” he said. “I was planning on going to Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University or the University of North Carolina Asheville.”
Bennett switched majors from information technology to music. Besides singing, he also plays trumpet and French horn in band and Jazz Ensemble. “I still work in IT, so I figured that background coupled with a music diploma” would be more marketable while mulling voice acting or starting an IT business.
“Judge Turpin is one of the crazier characters I’ve played,” Bennett said. “Villains have rich lines. He fell in love with Sweeney’s wife, now he’s going after their daughter Johanna. I’ve been in 12 plays” between SMC (2018’s “The Secret Garden” with Rose), Twin City Players and high school.
Ensemble members are Jasmine Ehlert, MerCelia Peterson, Matt Bennett, Jacob Walker, Vivian Williams, Jackie Roberts, Camille Van Dien, Kiana Bartloff, Craig Wells, Christianna Schommer, Alyssa Hyska, Allie Garrison, Creed Roschyk, Samantha Dhoore, Rebecca Ritzema, Ben VanRoekel, Colin DeYoung, Jessica Flagel, Catherine Lietz, Jessica Robison, Max Klitchman and Wyatt Noack.
Crew members include Gaily Peet, Emma Haas, Jacob Clark, Sara Porter and Landon Clark.
Roll’s production staff includes Carew, music director; Ferris, assistant music director; Joanna Whitmyer, choreographer; Christine Seitz, accompanist; and Kimberly Hutchinson, costumer.
Thursday, Feb. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 1, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 2, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 3, 2 p.m.
Tickets available for purchase online at swmich.edu/boxoffice