The Vista explores a new vein of dark dramedy

Scott Viau

In its tradition of bringing unusual flair to NMU students and the Marquette community, The Vista Theatre is presenting “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” a musical that’s been hailed as a classic for decades.

Emma Couling, nineteen-year-old junior theater major, has been given the opportunity to direct this play after she made the proposal to the Vista Theatre board meeting in December of 2008.

“I figured I had about as much of a chance as anybody,” Couling said. “I just went to the board meeting and asked if I could do it.”

With performances scheduled for late August, Couling spent several months preparing for the production, with rehearsals starting
in June.

“We’ve had a 40 rehearsal process for a six show run,” Couling said. “That’s intensive. It’s a solid year of my life.”

Although directing a play of this magnitude may be a daunting task, Couling said she was up to the challenge, having co-directed The Vagina Monologues at the Forrest Roberts Theatre in February of 2009.

Potential audience members shouldn’t go into the theater expecting a simple imitation of the 2007 film adaptation. Couling stated that her production is indeed different.

“You have audience members who walk in with certain expectations. That’s intimidating,” Couling said. “The truth is that the really difficult things to execute in this show aren’t even in the movie.”

When Ben Filipowicz, a senior Elementary Education major, heard auditions were being held for “Sweeney Todd,” he took every step possible to ensure he’d land the titular role.

“I went to the barber shops and went online and bought my own straight razor and taught myself how to shave with it,” Filipowicz said.

Having eventually won the role, Filipowicz said it was the most difficult one he’s ever taken on.

“It is very, very tough for me to get into that. I spend the first 15 or 20 minutes standing backstage running through all the things he went through (. . .) just to get the anger.”

Although he found taking on the role to be quite challenging, Filipowicz has nothing but positive things to say about the production.

“It’s just one of those shows you can’t help but like,” Filipowicz said. “It’s got comedy, it’s got tragedy, and it’s got gore. It’s got everything.”

While finding her Sweeney Todd may have been easy, Couling said her search for the woman to play Mrs. Lovett was not as fortuitous, as there were four to six women she could have cast as Mrs. Lovett.

“I had a really hard time casting
Mrs. Lovett,” Couling said. “I had to really look for the perfect fit.”

The person who fit the bill is senior theater major Sarah Frame. Frame was attracted to the role because she had always loved the music and how deep the role is.

“It’s fun to try to figure out what she’s thinking,” Frame said. “She’s a very complex person.”

Having already performed the musical over the past weekend, Frame said the audience has been growing ever since, but also mentioned that people shouldn’t have trouble buying tickets at the door, except for maybe the weekend show.

“I don’t foresee a huge problem getting tickets, but if you want to be safe, coming Saturday night (without buying advance tickets) might be a bad choice.”

“Sweeney Todd” is playing at The Vista Theatre in Negaunee on Sept. 3, 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for high school students and younger.