No Place Like London: Attend Nashville Rep’s ‘Sweeney Todd’

SweeneyNRT4Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd indeed. When the (just rechristened) troupe formerly known as Tennessee Repertory Theatre presented the 1979 Stephen SondheimHugh Wheeler musical masterwork in 2008, the sold-out run, featuring Lane Davies as the “Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and Martha Wilkinson as that very special pie baker Mrs. Lovett, wowed reviewers (including me) and their fellow audience members; perhaps a terrific Company in March and 2013’s incredible Cabaret are the only musical productions in the group’s recent history that have rivaled that euphoric reception.

This week as they kick off their 30th anniversary season under their new Nashville Repertory Theatre name there’s a new face in the title role, though it’s a visage that’s happily familiar to patrons of the group and other area theaters: Matthew Carlton. Carlton, who first acted with the company in a 1990 production of My Fair Lady, was dastardly Judge Turpin last time; now he gets to show how the wronged Benjamin Barker has turned into the vengeful Mr. Todd with a razor ready for the closest (and in most cases last) shave anyone will ever have.

“The part of Sweeney Todd is a gift to any actor but it is also a tremendously challenging role. The emotional range and the complexity of the music make it exciting to tackle while demanding a full commitment to the piece,” Carlton says in a recent statement from Nashville Rep. “Stephen Sondheim created a bold, brilliant, melodramatic musical that is, somehow, surprisingly funny and deeply touching as well. A great challenge for me is to find a way to bring out the humanity of Sweeney beneath all the theatrical murder and mayhem.

“I am looking forward to working with this incredibly talented cast. What a joy it will be to kill them!”

SweeneyNRT3This Grand Guignol-meets-Penny Dreadful piece has rich veins of dark humor (such as in “A Little Priest” and “God, That’s Good!”) and tender moments (like “Johanna,” “Pretty Women” and “Not While I’m Around”) too. These and other songs and scenes will unfold in Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Andrew Johnson Theater with a top-flight cast that in addition to Carlton and Wilkinson includes Galen Fott, Nathan Meyer, Whitney Meyer, Megan Murphy Chambers, Patrick Waller (pictured above with Wilkinson), Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva, Samuel Whited and Bobby Wyckoff.

There’s also the essential matter of those talented folks that aren’t onstage: Set Designer Gary C. Hoff, Costume Designer Trish Clark, Lighting Designer Michael Barnett, Music Director Jason Tucker and their colleagues under the overall direction of Nashville Rep Producing Artistic Director René D. Copeland.

In The Sondheim Review I wrote the 2008 production “was a reminder of just how special this show is – and can be.” I hope for and expect no less this time. And if you intend to attend the tale of Sweeney Todd, buy your tickets now, because if it’s anything like last time seats will be scarce. Popular demand has already forced Nashville Rep to extend the run from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1.

SweeneyNRT2Performance Schedule:

Thursday, Oct. 2, 7:30 PM (PREVIEW)

Friday, Oct. 3, 7:30 PM (PREVIEW)

Saturday, Oct. 4, 7:30 PM

Tuesday, Oct. 7, 6:30 PM

Wednesday, Oct. 8, 6:30 PM

Thursday, Oct. 9, 6:30 PM

Friday, Oct. 10, 7:30 PM

Saturday, Oct. 11, 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM

Tuesday, Oct. 14, 6:30 PM

Wednesday, Oct. 15, 6:30 PM

Thursday, Oct. 16, 6:30 PM

Friday, Oct. 17, 7:30 PM

Saturday, Oct. 18, 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM

Tuesday, Oct. 21, 6:30 PM

Wednesday, Oct. 22, 6:30 PM

Thursday, Oct. 23, 6:30 PM

Friday, Oct. 24, 7:30 PM

Saturday, Oct. 25, 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM

Tuesday, Oct. 28, 6:30 PM

Wednesday, Oct. 29, 6:30 PM

Thursday, Oct. 30, 6:30 PM

Friday, Oct. 31, 7:30 PM

Saturday, Nov. 1, 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM

Note: This show has mature themes and language.

Tickets:  Starting at $50 (starting at $12 for students with valid ID, some restrictions apply); tickets for preview performances are $25.  Cabaret table seating upgrade is available for an additional $10 per ticket. Tickets are on sale at the TPAC Box Office (at 505 Deaderick St. in Downtown Nashville), by phone at (615) 782-4040 or by clicking here.

*Photos by Harry Butler and Shane Burkeen courtesy Nashville Repertory Theatre.

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About Evans Donnell

Evans Donnell is the chief theater, film and opera critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He wrote reviews and features about theater, opera and classical music for The Tennessean from 2002 to 2011. He was the theater, film and opera critic for ArtNowNashville.com from 2011 to 2012. Donnell has also contributed to The Sondheim Review, Back Stage, The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Banner, The (Bowling Green, Ky.) Daily News and several other publications since beginning his professional journalism career in 1985 with The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat. He was selected as a fellow for the 2004 National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) arts journalism institutes for theater and musical theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2006 and classical music and opera at the Columbia University School of Journalism in 2009. He has also been an actor (member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA), founding and running AthensSouth Theatre from 1996 to 2001 and appearing in Milos Forman's "The People vs Larry Flynt" among other credits. Donnell is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (www.americantheatrecritics.org).