Not your grandma’s Sweeney Todd

Courtesy / Circle Theatre
Sweeny Todd

Courtesy / Circle Theatre Sweeny Todd

Kari Norton

Circle Theatre closes out the 2013 season with a special production of the musical thriller Sweeney
Todd, starring Grand Valley State University alumna Kelsey Kohlenberger as Mrs. Lovett and former
student Rob Karel as Anthony.

Going along with the tagline of the show given by the cast, “this is not your grandma’s Sweeney

“Don’t expect this to be the Angela Lansbury ‘Sweeney Todd,’ nor is it the Helena Bonham Carter
and Johnny Depp movie,” Kohlenberger said. “This show is stripped down to the roots of the
psychological thriller that is ‘Sweeney Todd.’”

The timeline is narrated by Toby—the only survivor of the events—and takes place in an insane
asylum 10 years after the exiled barber came back to town to seek his revenge and make meat pies
out of the townsfolk.

“He has taught the inmates the story and they act it out as part of a sort of therapy for themselves,”
Kohlenberger said. “There is nothing in this show that the asylum inmates couldn’t get their hands
on. We didn’t have ‘razors,’ so the razors become a pair of scissors broken in half, for example.”

The term ‘gory’ that is usually associated with the show’s title will not fit this production. There will
be no razors spraying blood or any of the other typical special effects.

“In fact, if you love thrillers but hate gore, you will be pleasantly surprised with the artistic nature
that this production uses to convey the killings,” Kohlenberger said.

Although Sweeney Todd is the title star, it is Mrs. Lovett who is the true villain and sociopath.

“She is manipulative, cunning and a pathological liar,” Kohlenberger said. “(Todd) may be the
muscle behind the murders on Fleet Street, but Mrs. Lovett plants every seed in his mind. She is
always one step ahead of everyone.”

Karel’s character Anthony is the complete opposite of Lovett. He plays a young sailor who falls in
love with a pretty girl, who happens to be Todd’s long-lost daughter.

“It’s been a few years since I’ve had the chance to play a romantic role, so it’s been very nice to go
back to that,” Karel said. “He also acts as a catalyst for the major plot twist in the show, so that’s
always a fun moment to play.”

While Lovett, along with many of the other characters, is complex enough in herself, Kohlenberger
and the rest of the cast actually play two characters at once. Both Lovett and her character in the
asylum have many similarities, but she does have to capture the subtle differences in both.

With the job of playing multiple roles at once, the level of professionalism and talent behind the
show has amazed both Karel and Kohlenberger.

“I have never worked with a group of such seasoned professionals before. It’s intimidating and
extremely exciting,” Kohlenberger said. “I tell everyone that I feel like Anne Hathaway when she
went from ‘The Princess Diaries’ to ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ This cast is my Meryl Streep. I can’t say
enough good things.”

Circle Theatre’s production of Sweeney Todd began on Sept. 5 and will run through Sept. 21 at the
Aquinas College Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $27 or $13.50 with a valid student ID.

For more information visit the theatre’s website at

[email protected]