Senior music major David Dimmen always makes sure to cover the sharp edge of the razor with his thumb before gliding it across his victimsâ€™ throats.
Yet as he pretends to slice the jugular of each innocent man looking for a shave, the audience wonâ€™t even be able to notice the protective thumb, Dimmen said.
But they will notice the blood.
Dimmen, who is one of two men playing Sweeney Todd in CSUâ€™s upcoming production of Stephen Sondheimâ€™s â€œSweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,â€ initially felt unsure about his role as the murderous Todd.
â€œIâ€™ve only ever played the â€˜good guyâ€™ in past shows,â€ Dimmen said.
To research the role, Dimmen first watched Tim Burtonâ€™s 2007 movie adaptation of â€œSweeney Todd,â€ starring Johnny Depp â€“â€“ but he thought Deppâ€™s portrayal of Todd was less than inspiring.
â€œI didnâ€™t like it at all. I was like, â€˜Ugh man, Iâ€™m stuck with this show. I donâ€™t want to do this at all,â€™â€ Dimmen said. â€œIt just didnâ€™t really appeal to me, you know?â€
But he became enlightened to a different side of the â€œDemon Barberâ€ after watching the lesser-known, 1982 TV-version of the musical starring George Hearn as Todd.
â€œIt was nice to see a side of Sweeney that wasnâ€™t Johnny Depp,â€ Dimmen said. â€œSeeing a different version â€“â€“ someone who isnâ€™t a â€˜quiet killer,â€™ but rather, just completely â€˜out there,â€™ was cool. You know, someone who screams all the time, and things like that.â€
While Dimmen had to break out of his â€œgood guyâ€ rut to become a dark, loudly animated Todd, Nathan Hickle, second year music graduate student and the second of the two Todds, had a little less trouble easing into the murderous mindset.
â€œIâ€™m used to playing the â€˜bad guyâ€™,â€ Hickle said.
Hickle and Dimmen (who will both alternate nights playing Todd) were recently in another CSU production together in which Hickle played the antagonist to Dimmenâ€™s protagonist; so, he says itâ€™s been interesting seeing how they each portray the same character with their individual styles.
â€I feel like Iâ€™m a little bit more brooding than (Dimmen) is,â€ Hickle said. â€œHeâ€™s a Sweeney whoâ€™s more easily amused, I guess you could say. While Iâ€™m more â€˜grrrâ€™ all the time.â€
And even though Hickle has gotten used to playing the â€œbad guyâ€ in his opera and theatre roles, he says itâ€™s still been a challenge transforming into a vengeful killer.
â€œI somehow have to make it believable onstage that I actually want to murder all of these people,â€ Hickle said.
â€œItâ€™s really pushed me to see how far Iâ€™ll go to make the audience believe what Iâ€™m doing in a role,â€ Hickle said. â€œBut, you know, I havenâ€™t actually gone out and murdered anyone or anything like that…â€
While neither Hickle nor Dimmen are actually murdering their castmates onstage and baking them into Mrs. Lovettâ€™s meat pies, the production crew of CSUâ€™s â€œSweeney Toddâ€ has put a lot of effort into making it look like they are.
In Tim Burtonâ€™s movie adaptation of â€œSweeney Todd,â€ the gruesome spouting of bright red blood from the necks of Toddâ€™s victim becomes a character in itself.
But, if CSUâ€™s production used fake, liquid blood for their barber chair murder scenes, â€œpeople would be slipping all over the place onstage,â€ Dimmen said.
So instead, every time a victimâ€™s throat is â€œslicedâ€ by Todd onstage, a splattering of blood will be eerily projected onto the window behind the barberâ€™s chair, said CSU opera professor and the showâ€™s director, Gregory Brookes.
â€œItâ€™s intricate, unique detail like this that will make this a really layered and complicated show,â€ Brookes said.
There will be quite a few differences in CSUâ€™s production compared to the movie version, Brookes said, because he is following Stephen Sondheimâ€™s original Broadway play more closely.
â€œIn his (original script), Sondheim asks production to move between scenes really quickly, so we had to create a lot of intricate lighting to achieve that,â€ Brookes said. â€œThis is by far the most technically complex show of anything Iâ€™ve ever done.â€
There will also be a constant flow of a fog machine amid the architecture of the showâ€™s Gothic set, reflecting the air of 18th century London.
â€Weâ€™re using haze to make the atmosphere of the show thicker…darker,â€ Brookes said.
And the stage wonâ€™t be the only thing made to look â€œdarker,â€ or more sinister: The cast members, especially the chorus, will be transformed to look like they belong on the filthy roads of Fleet Street.
â€œItâ€™s fun because you get to make them gross,â€ said senior theatre major and the showâ€™s hairstylist Meg Loughman. In order to make the cast of human-pie-eating Londoners look sufficiently grungy, Loughman will â€œrat their hair, add tooth decay and splatter them with dirt.â€
While the characters will be dressed to reflect the gritty depravity of the London streets, director Brookes says the quality of the voices in the show â€“â€“ since most cast members are voice majors â€“â€“ will be anything but dingy.
â€œI think the audience will be really happy with the singers,â€ Brookes said. â€œAnd all the music is just really richly layered.â€
Since this production of â€œSweeney Toddâ€ is a collaboration between both the opera and theatre departments of CSU, the cast will be versed in both strong vocal and acting training.
And this diverse set of background and skill is one of the reasons why Dimmen, who will open as Todd tomorrow night, thinks this show is so special.
â€œSure, thereâ€™s lot of stigma surrounding operas. Most CSU students would say, â€˜Opera, great, yeah I really want to go to that,â€™â€ Dimmen said. â€œBut this is a sort of mix between opera and theatre. I really think that negative stereotype can be changed after all weâ€™ve done with â€˜Sweeney Todd.â€™â€
Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeney is a junior journalism major. She can be reached at email@example.com.
What: Opera Theatre Presents: Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street
When: Friday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m
Friday, Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 30 at 2:00 p.m.
Where: Griffin Concert Hall, University Center for the Arts
Price: $10 for CSU students, $1 for youth (2 â€“ 17), $20 for adult