FARMINGTON

'Sweeney Todd' conjures up Halloween spirit at Farmington Civic Center

Director Randy West says show is multilayered, complicated

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • "Sweeney Todd" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27 through Saturday, Oct. 29 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30 at the Farmington Civic Center.
  • Tickets are $16 and $20.
  • Call 505-599-1144 or visit fmtn.org/shows.

FARMINGTON — In just a few years, Randy West, supervisor of the Farmington Civic Center and director of the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company, has established a strong tradition of having his company present a horror-related production during October in honor of Halloween.

The canon of musical theater productions that fit in that category is not a sizable one, although it does have some notable and popular entries, including "The Rocky Horror Show," which the company produced last year.

But West said there is little doubt about which show ranks as the premier production residing at the intersection of horror and musical theater — it's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," which his company is performing during the second half of its two-week run this weekend.

"It's the piece de resistance in terms of being complicated and sophisticated," West said, explaining that the production also ranks as one of the finest works in the long and distinguished career of legendary lyricist and songwriter Stephen Sondheim.

"Sweeney Todd" features very sophisticated and dense lyrics, along with complicated harmonies, he said, but that only begins to explain its brilliance, West said. Virtually every significant character in the production, and every major point of action, has its own musical motif, he said, and that essentially qualifies "Sweeney Todd" as an opera. That explains why it has been performed by so many opera companies over the years.

Anne Runolfsson and James Sasser star in the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company production of "Sweeney Todd" continuing this weekend at the Farmington Civic Center.

"It's really a crossover piece between musical theater and operatic companies," West said.

Those motifs and dense lyrics also serve another purpose, he said, noting the multidimensional nature of Sondheim's work.

"I always think about Sondheim with regard to layers," West said. "He almost never wrote something that goes in just one direction."

Indeed, he said, "Sweeney Todd" features undercurrents that only become apparent after several performances as a show evolves.

"We are playing at layers we didn't have on opening night," West said of his cast. " … You never bottom out because he's giving you so many things to consider as an actor."

Gareth West and Anne Runolfsson appear in a scene from the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company production of "Sweeney Todd."

One member of the cast is particularly adept at plumbing those depths, he said, citing the performance of Broadway veteran Anne Runolfsson as Mrs. Lovett. Runolfsson, who by all accounts filled in spectacularly for both Julie Andrews and Liza Minelli during the Broadway run of "Victor/Victoria" from 1995 through 1997 when those two stars became ill, has few peers when it comes to fully exploring a character's psyche, West said.

"Anne is kind of a master's class in playing shades of something," he said. " … She's constantly working. It's fascinating."

Runolfsson is joined in the cast by James Sasser in the lead role, along with Matt Aaron, Shannon Cochran, Kevin Rains, Sean McCall, Gareth West, Tanner Berry, Margaret Clair, Bryan Songy, Chase Cashion, Brandon Santos, Amber Glasgow, Primrose Bloom, Melissa Stewart, Sarah Harkness, Ruby Doolittle, Carolyn Savoia, Andrea Moore, Concetta Russo, Mikaelah O'Connor and Elizabeth Trattles.

That comes to a cast of 22 people, and while that is a sizable number, West noted that some productions of "Sweeney Todd" feature up to 48 performers. He joked that his slimmed-down production is known in the business as "Teeny Todd."

The show also features a nine-member orchestra led by Steven Zumbrun.

James Sasser, left, Margaret Clair and Anne Runolfsson appear in a scene from the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company production of "Sweeney Todd."

While the show certainly has its share of comic moments, West noted that "Sweeney Todd" is also emotionally complex and deeply moving — in addition to offering enough blood-soaked moments to satisfy any Halloween thrill-seeker.

"You laugh, you cry, you slash a few bodies and you grind them into meat pies," West said, deadpan. "So it's just a typical night of musical theater."

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" will be performed by the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, through Saturday, Oct. 29, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. Tickets are $16 and $20. Call 505-599-1144 or visit fmtn.org/shows.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.