Southwestern Michigan College to present ‘Sweeney Todd’

Published 9:28 am Thursday, February 28, 2019

DOWAGIAC — The dark, the gruesome and the twisted musical of “Sweeney Todd” is coming to the stage of Dale A. Lyons Theater on Southwestern Michigan College’s Dowagiac campus.

Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award winning musical is famous for its dark tone, complex music and diverse characters. Tonight through Sunday, theater goers and Dowagiac natives can come to see hard work and talent of SMC students as they present their production of famed anti-hero.

Show times for Southwestern Michigan College’s production of Sweeney Todd are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets for the show are available for purchase online at

Sweeney Todd is the gruesome story of a 19th Century London barber who dispatches his victims with a trap barber chair and slit throats and disposes of the corpses with the help of Mrs. Lovett, who bakes them into meat pies.

The wretched storyline is complemented by music that director and SMC Manager of Theatre Operations and Applied Performing ArtsMarcus Roll describes as “challenging” and “tough for professionals.” But in his students’ presentation, Roll believes the story, its characters and the music are performed to a professional level that will give the audiences a high-quality show.

“I have the right balance of students for a natural performance, and also musically gifted to take on the challenge the musical score requires,” Roll said. “Across the board for the cast they’re really smart musicians, and many of them are studying music. They really step up.”

Sophomore Kayla Rose, who plays Mrs. Lovett in the SMC production, said she has enjoyed working on the musical because of the multifaceted characters and their development. Of the show’s characters, her character knows the maniacal barber best, and Rose found their relationship enjoyable and interesting to learn about and develop.

“(Mrs. Lovett) is interesting,” Rose said. “She interacts with Sweeney the most, and knows him before musical takes place. She recognizes him and helps him in his endeavors, but she also has deep feelings for him.”

Michael Hayes, another SMC sophomore, plays the role of Anthony, a young romantic who pursues his love, Johanna. For Hayes, the dark musical is made interesting by the presence of his character, who represents the “bright spot in the musical.”

“Anthony is a youthful, naïve sailor boy. He’s the opposite of Todd,” Hayes said.

Hayes and Rose represent what Roll calls as the “passionate ones” — the students who were so talented and passionate in high school that they had to pursue theater in college.

“I keep saying that I could totally recast the show three times over and have just as good of a production,” Roll said. “At the collegiate level are the students who were passionate and went on. The overall level of intensity goes up. Everyone’s passion is higher, skill level is higher. We can have more polish on the show.”

According to Roll, the musical also demands difficult special effects due to the gore and one of the central settings, the barbershop. The sets for the SMC show, as well as the lighting and special effects, are what Roll sees as appropriate for their stage and production, and well-constructed and impressive. The SMC production will feature an operational trap barber chair that was constructed my SMC’s maintenance staff. The art students at SMC constructed most of the set, except for the backdrop. Roll is proud that the SMC production of Sweeney Todd is a collective effort of several parts of the student body.

“We’re trying to highlight that this is not just a theater department production. 60 percent or more of the props were made by art students and made by hand by art classes,” Roll said. “So much of the stuff, we built in-house. That’s very infrequent at the college level.”