Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

November 8, 2013

'Sweeney Todd' at SDHS

By Rob Cox Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — GREENSBURG — The last time she participated in a production with the South Decatur High School (SDHS) Drama Department, Amanda Gault was an SDHS senior playing one of the leads in the 2006 Spring Production.

On Thursday night, Mrs. Gault – as she’s now known by students – stepped back to the SDHS stage, this time behind the scenes, in a decidedly different role compared to her days as a student actress.

Gault is directing SDHS’s 2013 fall production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” which began Thursday night and will be presented again tonight and Saturday at 7 p.m., at SDHS. “Todd” is the first time the SDHS US History and AP Government teacher has ever served as a director.

As a student, she recalled, she participated in productions of “Grease,” “The Little Shop of Horrors,” “School House Rocks Live” and “Harvey.”

“It’s a very different experience – being behind the scenes,” Gault said. “But I’ve really enjoyed returning to the stage and working with the kids; coming back has been a great feeling.”

Gault and her student actors began work on the production in early September, and have practiced “almost every day since” – even during fall break.

“It been very challenging and time consuming,” Gault said, “but very worthwhile; I think the audience is going to really enjoy this [production].”

Gault readily admitted that “Sweeney Todd” isn’t a family-friendly show. She was quick to add, however, that the SDHS version will be significantly tamer than either the traditional stage version or the film versions.

“My seniors love Sweeney Todd,” she explained. “It’s their last musical, and they really wanted to do it, so I had to search for a ‘PG’ school version. I didn’t even know if one had ever been made.”

Gault found exactly what she was looking for in a “Sweeny Todd” version by Music Theatre International. The SDHS show includes the murders of the original productions, but none of the blood and only the suggestion of actual violence.

The play’s subject matter, however, is hardly the only challenge in bringing it to the stage.

“It’s an ambitious play,” Gault said. “The music’s very difficult. There are multiple songs, with different characters singing different scenes.”

Gault credited the production’s musical director – SDHS English Teacher Pam Smiley – with helping make the show’s complicated musical numbers run as smoothly as possible.

“We have such a small stage at SDHS, too,” Gault added. “We’ve had to alter some of the scenery because of that. The Barber Shop is supposed to be on top of the Pie Shop, for example, but that’s not possible with an eight-foot-high stage. Just holding a show this expansive in a cafetorium instead of an auditorium is a challenge.”

“Sweeney Todd” revolves around the eponymous character of the title, a man wrongly accused and exiled for a crime he didn’t commit. He returns many years later under an alias, his appearance greatly altered, to seek revenge on those who wronged him, including the corrupt judge who coveted Todd’s wife. Todd’s new barber shop becomes a death chamber, used for both vengeance on Todd’s enemies and as a place to commit “warm-up murders” on people who get in the way of his plans.

“This is a dark play,” Gault said. “It’s a musical thriller. We see the murders on stage, but no blood. The audience sees a straight razor slashed across the victim’s throat, but then the scene immediately blacks out.”

She continued, “Caleb Newlin plays Sweeney Todd and Shelby Sparkman plays Mrs. Lovett. They both worked really hard and both are very, very good at their roles. They’re the ones who talked me into doing this play. They had lines memorized before we even started. But all the kids in this show are very good.”

The final two night of the SDHS production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” begin at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday night, at SDHS. Tickets at the door or purchased in advance are $7 adult, $5 student. Children five and under will be admitted free, but, Gault said, “We don’t encourage people to bring young children to this. People DO die in it.”

To purchase tickets in advance, call the school at 591-3330.

Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011