OLEAN, NY -- Audiences can step off of the streets of Olean and onto the streets of 19-century London Thursday through Sunday when the Olean Theatre Workshop presents Steven Sondheim’s 1979 musical "Sweeney Todd" at the Washington Street Theater.
And each night audiences will see a slightly different show because the cast will alternate roles to give each cast member an opportunity to take center stage.
All roles in the three-time Tony Award winning show will be performed by area high school students.
“We try to give every kid a chance to shine,” the show's director Nick Patrone said, adding that two of them will perform in the title role and four of them will perform as his partner-in-crime, Mrs. Lovett.
According to the Olean Theatre Workshop website: “This thrilling musical tells the story of ousted barber Benjamin Barker, also known as Sweeney Todd, and his revenge on the scheming judge who exiled him for 15 years. When the bloodthirsty Sweeney joins forces with the failing pie shop proprietress Mrs. Lovett, the two introduce a new, carnal ingredient to Lovett’s meat pies that sends the people of London straight to the shop — and new victims to Sweeney’s barber chair.”
Patrone said that the workshop regularly works with high schoolers and pointed to the portion of its mission listed on the website for "working closely with schools and youth organizations in making a positive, sustained and creative impact in the area of arts and music education."
“We do a major musical with our high school groups every year,” Patrone said.
The show has been a challenge to put together in terms of staging and lighting, as well as in terms of working with Sondheim’s music, which, according to Patrone, is known for its intricate melodies and complex lyrics.
And the students have put a lot of work into mastering the music.
“It’s been a difficult show,” Patrone said. “They’ve been handling it well.”
The students have been working on the show since last fall, and during rehearsals, students learn theater techniques along with their roles in the show.
“It’s more like classes,” Patrone explained. “We started rehearsing in October for one day a week. Over the last month we have had rehearsals two to three days a week.
The Olean Theatre Workshop has been providing live performances to the community since 1983 and has owned the theater at 702 Washington St. for 26 years.
“It’s a small stage,” Patrone said. “But what’s nice about it is that it’s our space.”
The Olean Theatre Workshop’s 2017 season will continue with Arthur Miller’s "Death of a Salesman" June 15 through 18.
Performances for "Sweeney Todd" will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. All tickets are $10 and can be purchased on the website or by calling 716-373-7469.