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Haircut anyone? Demon Barber of Fleet Street cuts up Fairbanks

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Posted: Friday, March 19, 2010 4:55 pm | Updated: 1:41 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

FAIRBANKS - It might be time to let that hair grow a little long … Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street, has found his way to Fairbanks.

The Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre will be performing the musical tale of this vengeful barber beginning this weekend in the West Valley Performing Arts Center.

The play centers on Benjamin Barker — mostly in the guise of Todd — the formerly happy husband and father whose life as he knew it was ruined by the evil Judge Turpin, who lusted after Barker’s wife. The play starts with Barker returning from a 15-year prison sentence on false charges. He learns that his wife poisoned herself rather than be with Turpin, and that the judge now has custody of his daughter.

Under the alias Todd, Barker joins in a business venture with his landlady and pie-maker Mrs. Lovett. The venture, with he as a neck-slashing barber and Mrs. Lovett as a gruesome pie-maker, turns into an opportunity for Todd’s revenge on the judge.

Set in the mid-1800s, the play takes the audience through a thrilling and darkly humorous drama. Todd gets so caught up in his plan for getting even that the play takes a spiraling downturn guaranteed to knock the socks off anyone unfamiliar with the story line.

Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre has been around 40 years, typically performing musicals that have nearly always been family shows and Broadway standards, Director Brandon Michael explained. Earlier this season FLOT produced Disney’s “High School Musical,” and last year it was “Cinderella and The Prince.” With that in mind, Michael points out that “Sweeney Todd” is a huge departure from the ordinary.

According to Michael, FLOT is “taking a big risk producing it,” but at the same time, is “kind of behind the curve.” The play has been highly successful since its musical introduction in 1979. Michael feels that this play will be testing the waters with the community.

The production has been an elaborate process combining the skills of guest set designer Kit Mayer (from Wisconsin), the orchestra and cast. “The cast is totally top notch,” Michael said, including “leads strong enough to play anywhere, let alone Fairbanks.”

Michael gushed that Sylvain Demers, as Sweeney Todd, is perfect for the part. “If I was to cast a show on broadway, I’d call him.”

Michael, 33, has been performing in Fairbanks since 2005, but this is only the second show he has directed, and his first for FLOT. He was born in Philadelphia, spent most of his life on the West Coast and attended the Atlantic Theater Company acting school in New York City. He first became interested in drama after his performance in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” at 9 years old.

Before that, he had never considered performing. “It wasn’t even on my radar at that time,” he said.

Michael described the play as challenging, dark and sophisticated. He expects as unordinary an audience as the play is to FLOT.

“Even if it does not succeed financially — it’s courageous,” he added.

Contact News-Miner intern Reba Lean at 459-7572.

IF YOU GO

What: Sweeney Todd, presented by Fairbanks Light Opera Theater

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through March 28

Where: West Valley Performing Arts Center

Tickets: $20 adult, $15 seniors, youth 13-18 and military, $10 under 13, at www.flot.org or the door one hour before show time

Information: www.flot.org or 388-1989

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