Video: 'Sweeney Todd' actors sing for Denver Actors Fund

Video: Daniel Berryman and Samantha Bruce sing from ‘Sweeney Todd’ before Monday’s Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of the Tim Burton film at the Alamo Drafthouse Denver. 

They swear it’s a coincidence that the young lovers from off-Broadway’s The Fantasticks have run off together to perform as the young lovers in the DCPA Theatre Company’s critically acclaimed Sweeney Todd.

Daniel Berryman and Samantha Bruce in 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo by Adams Visual Communications. Actors Daniel Berryman and Samantha Bruce, who were performing as Matt and Luisa only a few months ago in the longest-running production in American theatre history, did not even audition together to play Anthony and Johanna in the DCPA’s new staging, which has been infused with new arrangements by revered local band DeVotchKa.

“I think I forgot my shoes,” recalled Berryman, who had to leave the Sweeney Todd audition room in New York to retrieve the sneakers he had left under a bench in the waiting area. Now sitting atop that very same bench was Bruce, his castmate in The Fantasticks for eight months.

“We didn’t even know we were both auditioning for the same show,” Bruce said.

Director Kent Thompson later wondered how it was that these two Denver Center newcomers had such immediate chemistry.

I just thought it was brilliant casting – and it is,” Thompson said with a laugh. “Just not that brilliant.”

Samantha Bruce sings at the Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo by Carla Kaiser Kotrc. The Fantasticks has performed continuously in New York for all but four years since 1960. Bruce could feel the theatrical significance from her first day with the show two years ago. “

When you walk in the door and down the hallway with all of the pictures from previous casts on the wall, and you see Jerry Orbach and Liza Minnelli and all of these other faces, you definitely feel the history,” said Bruce.

Berryman and Bruce were performing in The Fantasticks when the show passed 21,000 performances. They both say the reason for its longevity is simple.

 “It’s the story – and the intimacy of how it is told, said Berryman. “It speaks to people.”

Bruce thinks any theatre person should love The Fantasticks because, she says, it is a love letter to theatre.

“The way that it is told, you can just tell that (writers) Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt are so in love with the art form,” she said. “If you are a theatre person, you can’t not love it.”

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

There are unmistakable similarities between the actors’ roles in The Fantasticks and Sweeney Todd. In both, they play sweet, pure young lovers who are thrown into a world of violence and brutality. But they are not the same, Bruce said.

“Matt and Luisa have a history. They literally are the boy and girl next door,” she said. “With Anthony and Johanna, it’s love at first sight. But like Matt and Luisa, they forge a really deep connection, and then they have to go through hell to be together.”

The ultimate focus of Sweeney Todd is not the fate of the lovers as it is in The Fantasticks. “You don’t know if it works out for Anthony and Johanna,” Bruce said. “Well … they live. And in this show, that’s definitely a positive.”

To quote Sondheim, they both are enjoying being alive.

“I have been in love with Sweeney Todd since high school,” Bruce said. “Maybe even before. I am so incredibly thankful that I got to be a part of this production, because it’s not just Sweeney Todd.

It’s also DeVotchKa, she said of the local band that infuses the score with a variety of unexpected sounds ranging from a toy piano to a drum kit. “The drums add a really cool, tribal pulse to the opening number that gets you really excited to go on and tell the rest of the story,” she said. “But there is also tuba and electric guitars. It’s clearly like no Sweeney Todd you have ever heard before.”

Berryman, who performed with Theatre Aspen in 2014 as Marius in Les Misérables and Charlie Brown in You’re a Good  Man, Charlie Brown, said “DeVotchKa brings a whole different heartbeat to the show. One with powered by percussion.

He says he is most proud that the DCPA staging is not so much a melodrama but rather a more primal revenge drama. “Keeping the intensity of that revenge narrative was important to Kent Thompson,” Berryman said, “and we all feel really good that we accomplished that.”

Although Monday was the cast’s only day off in a 13-day period, Berryman and Bruce sang before a benefit screening of Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd film starring Johnny Depp at the Alamo Drafthouse Denver. The monthly film series, benefiting the Denver Actors Fund, pairs a film with its stage counterpart, with live pre-screening entertainment by the participating local theatre company.

Bruce sang Green Finch & Linnet Bird and Berryman sang Johanna at the screening, which raised money for the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial and neighborly assistance to members of the local theatre community in situational medical need. They were accompanied by David Wohl.

Daniel Berryman sings atthe Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo by Carla Kaiser Kotrc.
Daniel Berryman sings atthe Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of ‘Sweeney Todd.’ Photo by Carla Kaiser Kotrc. Photo at top of page: ​Daniel Berryman and Samantha Bruce in ‘Sweeney Todd.’ Photo by Adams Visual Communications.

Sweeney Todd: Ticket information

  • 270x270-sweeney-toddMusic and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by High Wheeler (adapted by Christopher Bond); musical adaptation by DeVotchKa
  • Through May 15 (opens April 15)
  • StageTheatre
  • Grammy-nominated Denver band DeVotchKa takes on the legendary demon barber of Fleet Street, serving up a reinvention of Sondheim’s musical thriller. Hell-bent on revenge, Sweeney Todd takes up with his enterprising neighbor in a devilish plot to slice their way through London’s upper crust. Justice will be served — along with audacious humor and bloody good thrills.
  • Accessible performance 1:30 p.m. May 1
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweeney Todd:
    Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16
    DeVotchKa frontman promises a Sweeney Todd that’s ‘loud and proud’
    DCPA announces DeVotchka-infused Sweeney Todd casting
    ​Where the band meets the blade: Rehearsals open
    Co-stars on bringing DeVotchKa’s fresh blood to Sondheim
    Video sneak peek with DeVotchKa
    Five things we learned at Perspectives: Use a dull blade!

    Previous Sweeney Todd profiles (to date):
    Meet Danny Rothman
    Meet Jean McCormick

    Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of 'Sweeney Todd' at the Alamo Drafthouse Denver.  Photo by Carla Kaiser Kotrc.

    Above: Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of ‘Sweeney Todd’ at the Alamo Drafthouse Denver. Photo by Carla Kaiser Kotrc. Below: The ‘Sweeney Todd’ trivia contest champ won tickets to a performance of ‘Sweeney Todd’ by the DCPA Theatre Company, along with a poster signed by the cast.

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