PHOTO EXCLUSIVE: The Demon Barber Goes Rock! Behind the Scenes at DC's Sweeney Todd - Prog Metal Version

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22 Aug 2014

The DC-based Landless Theatre Company is currently tearing it up with the first rock orchestration of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. Associate Artistic Director and cast member Steve Custer, who plays the Birdman, takes us behind the scenes at the groundbreaking production.



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The Birdman Strikes
Photo by Steve Custer



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Written by a team of arrangers known as The Fleet Street Collective, Sweeney Todd - Prog Metal Version will continue performances at Washington D.C.'s Warehouse Theatre through Aug. 31. 

The cast features Nina Osegueda (frontwoman of A Sound of Thunder) as Mrs. Lovett, Andrew Lloyd Baughman (Frankenstein, Diamond Dead) as Sweeney Todd, Greg Bowen (Frankenstein, Baltimore Rock Opera Society) as Tobias Ragg and Patrick M. Doneghy (The Full Monty, Boeing-Boeing) as Judge Turpin with Irene Jericho (Frankenstein, frontwoman of Cassandra Syndrome) as Beggar Woman, Joe York as The Beadle, Bobby Libby as Anthony, Angeleaza Anderson as Johanna, and Robert Bradley (Frankenstein, frontman of Aries) as Pirelli.

Amy Baska, Matt Baughman, Steve Custer, Dani Ebbin, Devin Gaither, Ally Jenkins, Jacki Ebbin Muir, Franklin Allen, Dexter Warren and Kristen Zwobot comprise the ensemble. 

The seven members of The Fleet Street Collective are DC-based metal musicians Lance LaRue, Ray Shaw and Alex Vallejo; Philadelphia-based world musician Spencer Blevins; UK composer and recent NYU musical theatre writing program graduate Andrew Siddle; LTC’s artistic director Andrew L. Baughman; and Charles W. Johnson, who serves as music supervisor and music director for the production.

Watch the cast in rehearsal here

"We took a long time exploring all of the options," director Melissa Baughman said in a previous statement. "In the end, we followed the advice of our friend Richard Campbell [Composer of Richard Campbell’s Frankenstein, LTC’s 2013 prog metal opera production], who suggested we might do best to draw upon the chemistry and talent of the musicians we brought together to perform the intricate Frankenstein score. It turned out to be a wise decision, because not only will they be playing Sweeney, they also know how to write to each others' strengths in performance."

"Our goal is to take Mr Sondheim’s work and simply inject it into the prog-metal idiom," added LaRue. "We’ve managed to preserve nearly every lyric and melody as originally written while 'progging' the orchestration. Sondheim fanatics will find it extremely familiar while the Prog-heads will feel right at home with the chunky 7-string guitar, double-kick drums and extended-range bass lines."

The Washington, D.C., theatre company, which is known for producing camp and satirical theatre, has also featured rock theatre in its lineup. They previously presented Richard Campbell's Frankenstein, a prog-metal opera fusion including company artists and local metal musicians.

Sondheim's musical about a murderous barber premiered on Broadway in 1979, receiving the Tony Award for Best Musical. It has since been revived on Broadway twice and adapted into a musical motion picture. The musical has a book by Hugh Wheeler.

Warehouse Theatre is located at 645 New York Ave., NW, in Washington, D.C. Tickets can be purchased by visiting vendini.com. Visit landlesstheatre.com for more information.