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OSU School of Music presents ‘Sweeney Todd’

A promotional poster for an upcoming production of Sweeney Todd. Credit: Courtesy of Josh Cook

A promotional poster for an upcoming production of Sweeney Todd. Credit: Courtesy of Josh Cook

The Ohio State School of Music is looking to make a killing this weekend with the premiere of its production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

“Sweeney Todd” is a musical that explores the theme of revenge when Todd comes back from a trip to discover that his wife had been poisoned. This causes Todd to snap and plot a violent revenge against the man who killed her and is now caring for his daughter.

Josh Cook, a fourth-year in vocal performance, plays Todd.

“Sweeney is always thinking, always planning, always motivated in his action, yet physically he is often still and barely engaged with the scene,” Cook said in an e-mail. “At the drop of a pin, however, Sweeney goes from nearly comatose into a psychopathic rage, venting his frustrations at the world.”

Cook said that he has loved the play ever since the sixth grade, which helps him immensely while acting as Todd. He was first introduced to the production while in a musical-theater class in elementary school.

“It had everything a great piece of art needs: beautiful music, a heart-wrenching story, strong acting and plenty of action to say the least,” Cook said.

The music in this production has many more musicians compared to the classic version of the play. Cook said the typical eight-piece orchestra arrangement has been expanded to a 32-person orchestra conducted by Russel Mikkelson, a professor in the OSU School of Music.

“(Mikkelson is) a real singer’s conductor, someone who not only knows the orchestral colors and sounds but he knows the story we are creating on stage, a story that he helps us bring to life, breathing with us and helping lead us to its conclusion,” Cook said.

Mark Gnatowski, a first-year in history and music, is a member of the singing ensemble and agreed with Cook about the importance of the music to the story.

“The story is inseparable from the music,” Gnatowski said in an email. “The orchestration closely matches the mood of the story throughout.”

The story of “Sweeney Todd” made it to the big screen in 2007 when famed director Tim Burton released a film interpretation of the musical starring acclaimed actor Johnny Depp. Cook and Gnatowski agreed that although the movie is a fine representation of the original Broadway production, the School of Music’s version is superior to the movie in many aspects.

Cook claims that although the movie features a large amount of blood and violence, the true moral and meaning of the story gets lost in translation.

The stage production brings the audience a story: a story of loss, of pain, of vengeance,” he said.

Gnatowski added, “By paring down these superfluous elements, this production highlights Sweeney’s dark journey.”

Performances are set to take place at Mershon Auditorium on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for senior citizens, Alumni Association members, and OSU faculty, staff and students.

Correction April 14: An previous version on this article incorrectly identified Mark Gnatowski’s position in the play. 

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