Besides Valentine’s Day, Chattanoogans have another reason to see red this weekend.
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” a joint production from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga theatre and music departments, opens Friday, Feb. 15, in the Roland Hayes Concert Hall.
The musical, led by Director Steve Ray and Music Director Perry Ward, is actually the second collaboration between the two programs: The departments joined forces to present “Treemonisha,” the opera by ragtime composer Scott Joplin.
UTC’s version of the gruesome tale leans heavily on the Theater of Cruelty tradition in which uncomfortable—but necessary to confront—truths about human behavior are played out on the stage.
Ray explained that audiences should be prepared to see an exciting but exaggerated and grim version of London.
“They should expect a kind of darkened dream,” he said. “We’re using surrealism and letting them live through the dream as a way to purge the darker emotions.”
Case in point: One character will be traversing the stage in 16-inch platform shoes, and the set features a startling image of the Big Bend clock melting down the side of the famous edifice.
“Audiences will also hear some great voices singing incredibly moody music,” Ray added.
The production draws together a large cast of 25 students from both departments.
The trials of putting on such a multifaceted and storied production—which first appeared on Broadway in 1979 and went on to win a Tony for Best Musical that year—presents UTC’s faculty with the chance to challenge students: In addition to tackling the difficult score, students had to build the intricate set and then take it on the road, so to speak, moving it from the workshop to the Roland Hayes Concert Hall.
“Sweeney Todd” opens this Friday at 7:30 p.m. Additional performances include Sunday, Feb. 17 at 3 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 21 and Friday, Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m
Tickets are $20 to general audience members and $15 for students and seniors.