For Sweeney Tony Nominee Travis, Casting Comes First

Tony Awards   For Sweeney Tony Nominee Travis, Casting Comes First It's neither the chicken nor the egg that comes first for Sarah Travis, it's the casting. Travis is a 2006 Tony nominee for Best Orchestrations for the current hit revival of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, which features a stage full of actors, who also play the show's entire score.

Travis, who has scored/orchestrated ten actor-musician productions with Sweeney director John Doyle, recently told Playbill.com, "We have to cast [the show] first. The casting dictates the scoring. . . . If we're reinventing a score like Sweeney — we knew we wanted a chamber version of it, so I knew I wanted a cello or two, a string section and some woodwind and a bit of brass. The casting process . . . becomes a jigsaw [puzzle]. Once it's cast, I can start to score." Travis says the process can become a bit of a nightmare once rehearsals begin. "I may want a combination of instruments for a section," Travis explained, "and we'll get into the rehearsal room, and John will say, 'Well, I need that person to get on a coffin and move a chair.' So I'm scoring right up through previews and up to opening night."

Sweeney Todd marks Travis' Broadway bow, and she said she is completely overwhelmed by the show's success and her Tony nomination. "We started this on such a shoe-string budget, on no money," Travis said. "And it's been a two-year journey to this point with a wonderful U.K. ensemble that really set the groundwork— and a fantastic U.S. ensemble. And the word ensemble is my buzzword because that's what interests me about this work, and to get to this point I think it is a tribute to a fantastic ensemble of people."

Sweeney Todd was nominated for five additional Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Leading Actor and Actress in a Musical (Michael Cerveris and Patti LuPone), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Manoel Felciano) and Best Director of a Musical (John Doyle). The production plays the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.