QUINCY — An all-around challenge is the best way Brandon Thomsen describes the latest Quincy Community Theatre production.
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is challenging for the staff, volunteers and audience all at the same time.
“To take something that's dark and funny at the same time that might disturb people, while at the same time making people laugh, we thought it was a really good mix, and we could all grow from doing this,” said QCT's artistic director who is directing the show.
The horror musical, which opens to the public Thursday, tells the story of Sweeney Todd, a barber seeking to avenge his family, and Mrs. Lovett, played by Gretchen Wolfmeyer, the amoral pie-shop owner who profits from his murderous streak.
The QCT production is being set in the 1930s, and the scenic and costume design are inspired by Alfred Hitchcock films.
Thomsen said the cast and crew have immersed themselves in the production, including reviewing the themes and what it means in their own lives.
“One of the lines sung to the audience 'Isn't that Sweeney there beside you,' and when you stop and listen to that lyric, you pause and think what does that mean,” Thomsen said. “A Sweeney Todd is someone who lives in the past and doesn't forgive, and I think we've all had times in our lives where we forget to forgive.”
J.E. Frohn, who portrays Sweeney Todd, immediately jumped at the chance to audition for the role.
“I have a list of dream roles that I kind of have, and that was one of them,” Frohn said. “I was like 'I have to do this.' I know it's hard but I had to see if I was up to it and check that little box off my list.”
The Quincy resident has immersed himself into all aspects of his role, not just lines, but the music choreography and the emotional intensity.
“It has worked its way into my dreams where I'm thinking about it at night and the little things I need to get right and to correct, because I am a bit of perfectionist when it comes to that stuff,” Frohn said. “I don't want people to be disappointed. They're paying good money to see this show and I want to give an all out performance.”
Productions of “Sweeney Todd” are known for the mechanical barber chair where the title character kills his customers during a shave before the chair conveys them down a chute through a trap door.
Thomsen said the set designers spent hours making sure the chair would properly slide the person down a slide through a trapdoor in the stage to the basement and safely landing on a gym mat.
“Thankfully, one of our shop guys is a math teacher by day, so this was really up his alley,” he said. “It's quite a drop, but it's been really fun to watch.”
Frohn said pulling the lever to engage the chair can be terrifying for all involved.
“The whole chair basically collapses into a ramp, and the person just goes 'Shoom!'” he said. “It goes very fast.”
Thomsen said the cast of 27 has been diligent in preparing for the performances.
“They have to devote their lives to this, because the music is so difficult, and the scene work is so difficult,” he said. “They don't 9 to 5 and just show up at rehearsal at 7.”
Performances will run Thursday through Sunday and March 31 through April 2. They start at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.
To purchase tickets, visit the QCT Box Office in the lobby of the Oakley-Lindsay Center, call 217-222-3209 or go to 1qct.org.