Ellis Theatre Guild students paint the town red for Sweeney Todd



Marshall Welch ’24 as Judge Turpin in “Sweeney Todd”

Early mornings and late nights, sweat and tears, and hard work and determination marked the beginning of the year for theater bootcamp performers. It was not all in vain, however, as the actors’ ability to respond would dictate their placement in roles for the upcoming year. 

The Ellis Theatre Guild’s first show of the 2022-2023 school year is “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”. The show follows the story of a murderous, revenge-driven barber, played by Luke Gerdeman ’23. From the rehearsal process to the performance itself, “Sweeney Todd” is sure to be something special. 

The story opens with Sweeney’s return to London after being falsely imprisoned in Australia for 15 years. He was sent there by a corrupt judge who wanted Sweeney’s wife. He longs to find his wife and daughter Johanna, played by Cordelia Davies ’23, but things go awry after he returns to his old apartment. He learns from Mrs. Lovett, the owner of a pie shop beneath his apartment, that his wife is dead and his daughter is in custody of the judge. When Mrs. Lovett hands him his razors, Sweeney resolves to return to being a barber. The plot thickens as Sweeney takes his first victim, and, in quick succession, has an encounter with the judge who sent him away. Sweeney is driven mad by his separation from his daughter and the torment of knowing he’s lost the life he once had. His disdain for humanity and London grows steadily and manifests itself through Sweeney’s actions.

While theater bootcamp’s physical demands might seem overkill to some, they’re certainly paying off for the actors in “Sweeney Todd”. Period-accurate clothing, including corsets, hoop dresses, heels, and dress shoes, is worn every day in rehearsal. This brings a whole new level of challenge to the rehearsal experience. Singing, dancing and acting in this restrictive clothing has forced students to adapt and learn new techniques to better deliver a fantastic show. “So far, the rehearsal process for Sweeney has been very smooth and full of excitement. The cast is already anticipating a wonderful show that the student body and faculty will enjoy,” Lizzie Hopper ’23, who plays Nellie Lovett, said. Although exercise is a crucial part of the rehearsal process to prepare actors for moving on stage, “the more demanding stuff lies with the corset and heels and stuff like that.” Corsets, an important piece of women’s fashion in the 1800s, are restrictive, and make it harder to breathe.  

The rehearsal process for “Sweeney Todd” is intense, rivaling most sports in terms of time commitment and energy. The dedicated students work until 6 p.m. every day, often staying later to work on songs or receive private voice lessons. On the weekend, most Hill students take time to relax, but actors are back at work for hours on end every Saturday, often returning to the CFTA on Sunday to work independently. The commitment and work ethic of student actors is often underestimated but it pays off on show day.  

Come see the dramatic end of The Ellis Theatre Guild’s fall production on November 11-13.