The University of South Dakota Department of Theatre presents the musical thriller "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," April 18-22, in the Wayne S. Knutson Theatre of the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts.
Matt Nesmith, assistant professor and coordinator of Musical Theatre at USD, portrays the title role of Sweeney Todd. Nesmith, an alumnus of USD where he received an M.F.A. in Theatre with a specialization in Directing and a Master's of Music in Vocal Performance, has been on faculty in the Theatre Department for the past two years.
During his time at USD he has served as musical director for "Evita," was both the musical and stage director for "Avenue Q" and last year's "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Nesmith also trod the boards of the Knutson Theatre as an actor appearing in the department's productions of "Noises Off" and "Julius Caesar" as a graduate student. Since that time, he has worked at theatres in Michigan, New Hampshire and Germany as well as at The Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park.
"Sweeney Todd" is a chilling musical based on Christopher Bond's retelling of the Victorian penny dreadful, "The String of Pearls," which recounts the infamous legend of a vengeful barber out for blood. The tale begins in Victorian London as two men, Anthony Hope, played by Patrick Beasley of Lincoln, NE, and Sweeney Todd disembark from their ship. Hope befriends Sweeney Todd but while he sees the beauty of London, Sweeney sees its bleakness and filth. Sweeney Todd tells Anthony an unfortunate tale about a barber, Benjamin Barker, who was framed for a crime and exiled by the lecherous Judge Turpin, played by Nick McCleery of Dallas, OR, who then ravaged Barker's young wife. As Sweeney travels Fleet Street, he encounters Mrs. Lovett, played by Tarryn Rouse of Doniphan, NE, and her meat pies. Mrs. Lovett recognizes Sweeney Todd as Benjamin Barker and reports that his wife is dead and his daughter, Johanna, played by Brianna Wetrosky of Brandon, SD, is now Judge Turpin's ward and the woman he plans to marry. Todd's hatred for the Judge soon expands to his customers in his barber shop, and with his new found partnership with Mrs. Lovett, they are about to make the best meat pies London has ever tasted.
The original 1979 Broadway production of "Sweeney Todd" won eight Tony Awards. In 2007, this musical thriller found its way to the big screen with an all-star cast of Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd), Helena Bonham Carter (Mrs. Lovett) and Alan Rickman (Judge Turpin) with Tim Burton as director.
USD's production of "Sweeney Todd" is directed by Chaya Gordon-Bland and the music director is Brandon Henrickson. Performances are at 7:30 p.m., April 18-21, and at 2 p.m. on April 22 at the Wayne S. Knutson Theatre on the USD campus. A post-show discussion will follow Thursday evening's (April 19) performance. Tickets ($15 adults, $9 K-12 & non-USD students with ID, and $4 USD students with ID) can be reserved online at www.usd.edu/theatre or in the afternoons (noon-5 p.m.) starting Wednesday, April 11 by calling the USD Theatre Box Office at (605) 677-5400.