ATI, CSO collaborate for production of Sondheim’s ‘Sweeney Todd’

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Don Farrell has been eager for this collaboration on one of his favorite musicals.

“I am very excited about playing a part in presenting such a great musical as (Stephen) Sondheim’s ‘Sweeney Todd’ in the Palladium, a venue worthy of such a great work of art that many have called the greatest musical ever written,” Farrell said. “To hear the lush orchestrations by the wonderful Carmel Symphony Orchestra will be marvelous for everyone. Mr. Sondheim turns 90 years old on March 22, and I can’t think of a better way for Actors Theatre of Indiana and the Carmel Symphony Orchestra to honor and celebrate the genius of such an iconic composer and lyricist than our production.”

ATI and CSO present “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” at 8 p.m. Feb. 21-22 at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.

ATI co-founder Farrell played the role of Todd for the first time for ATI in 2016.

“I am thrilled to recreate the role for this amazing co-production,” Farrell said. “I played the role of Anthony Hope twice, the first time in 1991 at Cincinnati Hot Summer Nights with Broadway actress Pamela Myers in the role of Mrs. Lovett and then again in 1992 for The Springer Opera House in Columbus, Ga.”

Fellow ATI co-founders Judy Fitzgerald and Cynthia Collins also appear in the production.

Farrell said Sondheim musicals are complex and no two works are similar to style or presentation.

“As an actor, I appreciate complex characters, and ‘Sweeney Todd’ is certainly complex,” he said. “Here you have a man who devoutly loves his family, was unjustly exiled for 15 years of hard labor by a corrupt judge wishing to take advantage of his wife and child. Everything was taken away from him. Who can’t relate to the deep hurt, anger, pain and loss and the temptation, the desire to enact revenge on such horrific characters as Judge Turpin and the society he represents? The question is how we deal with that hurt, pain and loss. What decisions do we choose to make and act upon? And truthfully, I believe that everyone wants to root for the underdog, even if Sweeney’s choices might be very unsavory at the very the least.

“I do find the characters that Sondheim chooses to write about and create very challenging and satisfying to perform. They are not one-dimensional, but neither are human beings, which is why I find them so engaging.”

Fitzgerald plays Mrs. Lovett, Todd’s accomplice in the murders, as she did in 2016.

“She is pretty much the mastermind in all of the killing and the pie filling,” Fitzgerald said. “She is a despicable character right out of the gate. Good thing that she is funny and (provides) comic relief for the production.”

Collins is reprising her role as the Beggar Woman.

“What I like about the role is that it is challenging,” Collins said. “Sondheim is challenging for any actor, which is why everyone in the business relishes portraying a character in a Sondheim musical. In my opinion, it’s Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece.”

Fitzgerald agrees.

“He is beyond brilliant,” she said. “As an actor it is so fulfilling to perform anything Sondheim.”

Collins said it’s always a thrill to perform with a full orchestra

“The Palladium’s acoustics are wonderful, and it is always a joy to sing there,” Collins said.

CSO Music Director Janna Hymes said a choir will join the orchestra.

“What is so tremendous is, this is not only a great acting show, but the music is incredible,” Hymes said. “I saw the Sondheim production on Broadway with Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury. My parents thought it would scare me, but it didn’t. It remained my whole life my favorite show. I liked how dark and funny the show was. I really loved it.”

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