Clarence Brown Theatre and the Knoxville Symphony are reviving their onstage partnership with a joint performance of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" at the University of Tennessee theater.
"Sweeney Todd" opens the 2012-'13 Clarence Brown season. Actress Dale Dickey will play the role of Mrs. Lovett in the Aug. 30-Sept. 16 production. The UT graduate most recently played at Clarence Brown as Blanche Dubois in 2009's "A Streetcar Named Desire."
"She's been in musicals before, and she told me she's working with a voice coach and getting her chops back," said Clarence Brown Producing Artistic Director Cal MacLean last week. MacLean will direct "Sweeney Todd."
The symphony and theater collaborated two years ago on the ambitious and successful production of "Amadeus" that opened the Clarence Brown 2010-'11 season. For that production the symphony performed in the middle of the Clarence Brown stage as the story of Amadeus Mozart, played out in front, beside and above them. "Amadeus" was the first joint performance by the two artistic entities since a 2000 production of "Hamlet" at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. With the success of "Amadeus," the theater and symphony didn't want to wait another decade before working together.
"We had a really great time doing 'Amadeus,' and both Lucas (Knoxville Symphony Music Director Lucas Richman) and I were really jazzed by the whole collaboration," said MacLean. "So we started discussing theater that was large enough and important enough musically but also a theater piece that had scale and audience impact."
Work on "Sweeney Todd" gears up July 23, before the UT fall semester begins, to get the production ready for its run.
The upcoming season's other plays are:
n "The Little Prince," Oct. 4-21. Based on a beloved children's tale, this Carousel Theatre production will have mostly UT graduate theater students in its cast. The play tells of an aviator who crashed his plane in a desert only to meet an intergalactic traveling young prince from a house-sized asteroid.
n "Will Power! "Oct. 25-Nov. 11. The Lab Theatre production is a sort-of-Shakespearean play in that it includes monologues, songs and scenes from some of his most famous plays. The vignettes are built around certain themes in Shakespeare's work, said MacLean. He said the play is "really good for young actors," and the undergraduates cast in its roles have "a great opportunity" to perform Shakespeare.
n "A Christmas Carol," Nov. 29-Dec. 16. There was some discussion within the UT theater department over whether to again play the Charles Dickens classic that's been a Clarence Brown staple for several years. The decision? Produce a new version. This "Carol" is a new adaptation with a new set and new costumes and is a 90-minute one-act play instead of the previous two-act adaptation with an intermission. The theater isn't returning "It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play" that had been performed the past two years during the winter holiday season. "Since we are putting together this new production (of "Christmas Carol") we wanted to put all our eggs in that basket," said MacLean.
n "Red," Jan. 31-Feb. 17. This Carousel Theatre production is for high school students and older. Set in the early 1960s, it tells abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko's struggle to paint a set of murals for an exclusive New York restaurant.
n "A Raisin in the Sun," Feb. 21-March 10. The first play to portray African-American characters, themes and conflicts realistically, this story is what MacLean calls 'a classic American play." It tells the story of recent widow Lena Younger, who wants to move her family from a cramped Chicago tenement to a house. Lena wants to buy the house with the life insurance check she's received. But her son Walter has other plans.
n "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, " April 4-21. A comedy produced in the Lab Theatre about five very different women all bridesmaids at the same wedding. The women hide in a house's bedroom to avoid an over-the-top wedding reception. This version sets the comedy in Knoxville.
n "On the Razzle," April 25-May 12. The season-ending play is a fast-paced farce based on the same story that inspired the musical "Hello Dolly." "It's very funny, full of gags and full of jokes," MacLean said.
Season tickets are on sale by going to www.clarencebrowntheatre.com.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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