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A little off the top

By Staff | Feb 3, 2012

Shepherd University Music Department will tackle another well known musical with its production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

According to director Richard Helldobler, the show is an opportunity to showcase the talent Shepherd University has to offer.

Helldobler said that Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical is known to be a more difficult piece to perform, but that the students have risen to the challenge.

“It says something about our students,” he said.

Helldobler, who now serves as Shepherd University’s Vice President of Academic Affairs, began his university career as part of the theater faculty more than 20 years ago and has directed more than 150 plays. He is joined by musical director Dr. Erik Reid Jones.

Helldobler’s direction of Sweeney, his second production at Shepherd after last year’s “Candide,” is a return to familiar territory.

“It’s nice to stretch those academic muscles,” he said.

The play features a cast of 40 students, both music and non music majors.

Helldobler said that though audiences have come to associate “Sweeney Todd” with blood and gore, the university production will be performed in a slightly different way.

“This is done in a melodrama style,” he said.

He explained that it focuses on a heightened sense of suspense.

Audiences who may or may not have seen a performance of “Sweeney Todd” will find relevance in the story’s message, Helldobler said.

“It has lessons to teach today about choices and what happens when people in power don’t make the right choices,” he said.

“It’s really about moral choices and revenge,” he went on to say.

Despite its ” dark” tone, Helldobler seemed confident the student-driven piece would entertain and impress.

“Come out and watch theses young students deliver a very quality production,” he said.

“Sweeney Todd” will be performed tonight, Feb. 3 and Friday, Feb. 10, Saturdays, Feb. 4 and Feb. 11 at 8 p.m., as well as Sundays, Feb. 5 and 12 at 3 p.m. in the Frank Center Theater.

General admission is $15; $10 for faculty, staff and students 18 and under; and free for Shepherd students with Rambler card and Friends of Music Gold and Silver MAC Cardholders.

For more information, call 304-876-5555 or visit www.shepherd.edu/musicweb.