Morning Host Luis Hernandez spoke with Erick Pinnick who plays Sweeney Todd, Rachael Warren who plays Mrs. Lovett, and Director Curt Columbus. After the conversation, Artscape Producer, James Baumgartner has a short review of the performance. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is playing now at Trinity Rep through June 25th.

Luis Hernandez: This is a dark play. But it's also fun. And I wonder how, how do you balance the two? Do you go more dark? Do you get more fun?

Erick Pinnick: After our first performance, and we were having our note or note session in the afternoon, and Curt had mentioned how the audience was really responding to me. I said, Yeah, I got a lot of laughs, which you wouldn't expect from someone in my line of work in the show, but I think what's great is the show is balanced out so well, just the way it's written. Because it's written with so many light moments, just when you need them. Just when you think it's maybe the show is becoming too dark, and we're not going to have laughs It's perfectly balanced out. That's what I would say about it.

Curt Columbus: You know, I -- this is horrible that I'm going to say this, but that movie stank. The one that was made by Tim Burton, about 15 years ago, (with Johnny Depp?) Yeah. It stinks. And part of the reason that it stinks is it's not funny. It's never funny. It's just gory, and dumb. A lot of people have this impression that the story is just the story of, you know, Demon Barber, I mean, it is in the title, but there's so much humor in it. Sondheim himself said, I've written a piece of musical comedy. And so if you don't honor the parts of it that are funny, and particularly Rachael's Mrs. Lovett.

Rachael Warren: The hot mess that I play? Yeah, I mean, somebody once told me that you can only love somebody, you also have the capacity to deeply hate. Right? That that, you know, if you care about somebody that much they have the ability to hurt you that much, right. And I think comedy, real comedy comes from a place of great need. So to me Lovett, I'm being as loopy and just wild as she is, is in equal equal weight to how much she has felt lonely, and what the survivor that she is, what she has seen and the way she's gotten through it, and how she's had to think outside the box so much.

Luis Hernandez: You know, Curt, all of this is making me think this is a 19th century story. And I'm wondering, you know, it was written in 1979. But I'm wondering how is it relevant today?

Curt Columbus: We have a frame that we've put on the show that starts and ends in a contemporary prison. And I really won't say more than that. But you know, the reason to do this play is that we're engaged in a really deep conversation in this country about justice. And at the center of Sweeney Todd, is this moral quandary? You know, if you take someone, and you take everything that they love from them, how do you expect them to behave, you know, in a traditional moral way. And so that's really at the center of the story. If you've had a perversion of justice inflicted upon you, how can you ever feel like there's such a thing as justice. And so that's really what Sweeney Todd is about. And it just so happens that Sweeney Todd meets Mrs. Lovett, and she has her own ideas about justice as well.

Luis Hernandez: Erick and Rachael, I'm wondering, because again, this is such a popular show. It's been done so many times on the big screen as well. And I wonder how you prepare for this role? Do you ever watch any of the old performances? Or do you try to avoid them?

Erick Pinnick: I think I've seen all the ones on YouTube. And now the last suggestion was was Lego Sweeney, which I watched. It's eleven minutes long and I said to Rachael, we both...

Rachael Warren: ...started it at like 11 o'clock at night. We were both watching Lego Sweeney Todd on our phones. I don't know I tend to I tend to not -- I mean. The first exposure to it was the PBS filmed version that Angela Lansbury did in the original production. And I watched that when I was in college, and that was my first exposure to this piece. And I've been fascinated with it ever since. But I saw the Patti LuPone Michael Cerveris version on Broadway and I saw the movie and I saw...

Luis Hernandez: So since you've seen them, yeah. You know, throughout your life. Do you? Do you find yourself ever taking from them? Or do you try to avoid doing the same thing you want to do you want to put your own mark on this?

Erick Pinnick: Yeah, it's funny all most of the performers that I've watched in watch do the role over the years. They're so different from me as a human being. And so all the things that I bring to Sweeney are all from Erick Pinnick. They all originate with me. So it's really Yeah, it's sort of impossible to copy them in a way just because you don't have their life experience.

Luis Hernandez: Eugene Lee was the co-set designer for this production he passed away earlier this year. Tell me about his design work and how that works with this play.

Curt Columbus: Well, a couple of things. Luis, my first exposure to this play was was that as a teenager, I saw that Broadway production when I was 15. And the physical environment blew my little tiny cotton mind. I mean, I just was beyond the beyond. Because I'd never really thought about placing a play in a container that had very little to do with the play, right? Gene's original set is a kind of giant industrial space. So it really is all about class. But that's because the physical environment focuses that attention on the story. So when, when he and I started talking about this, I said, I really wanted to focus on this idea of justice. And so the notion of placing it in an environment that has echoes of contemporary prison is really where we went, you know, because he's he's was the kind of designer and Patrick Lynch, who has been with us every step of the way, who was the co-designer is absolutely in the same mold. It's all about what can the audience bring from their experience to the theatrical experience? How can you enter the play in a way that that isn't about, you know, architectural detail from 1846, but instead is about how we experience that all as a single event? Gene was really good at saying, you're in a room with this. So what room are we in? Right? And that's really, that's what what the brilliance of this scenery is.

Luis Hernandez: People may know, Sweeney Todd from somewhere, whether it was another show they saw or movie or The Lego Movie, but what do you what do you want them to take away from this version of it? Curt I'll start with you.

Curt Columbus: You know, I really do want folks to have a discussion about justice and the way that that justice is enacted upon us. Yeah, that's what I would have them take away.

Rachael Warren: Like, with any piece of theater, I want you to walk away thinking like, what would I do in those circumstances? You know, what would I do differently? What do I understand? What do I argue with about their choices? And I also hope you walk away laughing all the way home with the fun parts of the show.

Erick Pinnick: Yeah, I would say especially because this show specifically the PBS version made me want to become an actor, which is why this is a dream come true. So I think in addition to what they said, I also want people to see it and just experience the brilliance that is the piece because it's one of the most brilliant pieces of theatre ever written.

Luis Hernandez: Erick, Rachael, Curt, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Luis: That was Erick Pinnick who plays Sweeney Todd, Rachael Warren who plays Mrs. Lovett, and Director Curt Columbus. 

Luis: Artscape producer James Baumgartner joins us now to talk about what’s going on this weekend. James, you saw Sweeney Todd earlier this week, what did you think?

James: It was incredible, and they did hit that balance point between dark and funny. You talked with the two leads who were amazing. Rachael Warren plays Mrs. Lovett with 11 out of 10 intensity and Erick Pinnick is a great contrast playing Sweeney Todd a little bit reserved and determined. But I want to highlight a couple of the supporting roles too: Taavon Gamble has an amazing presence on stage, his singing voice just fills the theater and Alexander Crespo-Rosario stole the scene as Tobias Ragg selling a magical elixir. The set that Curt Columbus mentioned is wonderful as well, the audience is just transported into this world. Just a top-notch production all around

Luis: Alright, I can’t wait to see it this weekend. What else is going on?

James: The Westerly Arts Crawl is tonight, hosted by the Artists Cooperative Gallery. You can visit 6 different galleries all within a few blocks of each other. That’s in downtown Westerly on the first Friday of the month.

Back in April, I did a story about sound art at the New Bedford Art Museum. It’s a show called “Sound in Space, Sound in Place.” That exhibition closes on Sunday, so this is your last chance to check it out and I do recommend it.

And the Coggeshall Farm Museum in Bristol is hosting Evening at the Farm. That’s live music from Virginia James - playing guitar and violin on the grounds at the farm starting at 5:30 on Saturday.