“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” hit the theaters last year with a thud. The film was adapted from a play by Stephen Soundheim in the ’70s. A new version of the play was staged in 2005 and will make a stop at the Givens Performing Arts Center Friday.
The film story of Sweeney Todd was reworked from a gruesome story taken from a book called “The String of Pearls.” The book’s genre was a penny dreadful — a cheap, quickly written melodramatic book — and was written in the 19th century. In the version of the story that is coming to GPAC, the story is staged differently from the movie and won’t include any of the gore or special effects, said Carrie Cimma, who plays the lead role of Mrs. Lovett, Todd’s accomplice in crime who helps dispose of the bodies he kills by baking them into pies.
“We’re sort of retelling the story in a kind of drama therapy,” Cimma said.
The production is minimalist, she said. It tells the story looking back on the events that occurred in the characters’ lives. The orchestra is even included on stage. The actors all play instruments to accompany the songs. Cimma plays the tuba, a skill she picked up in an all girl’s marching band in high school. She took lessons to prepare for the role to refresh her memory.
“It’s more comedic than anything else,” Cimma said of the presence of a tuba in a production like this.
The music, which was originally penned by Stephen Soundheim, has been reorchestrated for ten people and plays the music Soundheim wrote in a different way. His distinctive style of music is a cross between traditional musical theater and opera.
“The man’s a genius,” Cimma said. “There are people that argue that this is one of his crowning achievements.”
Cimma plays the character who falls in love with Sweeney Todd, a murderous barber who lost his wife and daughter to a corrupt judge. While the film adaptation was searching for drama, Cimma has a different take on the role.
“We definitely play up the humor a lot more,” Cimma said. “I thought the movie was humorless.”
Cimma is on her fifth year on the road as an actor. She has toured with another Broadway style musical and has worked regionally in the New York City area as a choreographer. She has been on the tour with Sweeney Todd since September 2008.
Sweeney Todd is playing at the Givens Performing Arts Center Friday at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $12 to $ 35. Faculty and staff tickets are $15, and student tickets are $5.