• The Story Behind the Photo: "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | Mar 19, 2021
    Sweeney Todd
    Jamey Hood and David St. Louis in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2019). Photo by Jordan Kubat.

    About ​​Sweeney Todd

    In a barber shop above Mrs. Lovett’s struggling pie shop, Sweeney Todd plots revenge on the lecherous judge who wronged him and his family. In the seedy underbelly of 19th-century London, desperate times lead to diabolical schemes—and strange alliances. With razor-sharp wit and extraordinary songs like “Pretty Women” and “Not While I’m Around,” this Tony Award-winning masterpiece was proclaimed, “more fun than a graveyard on the night of the annual skeleton’s ball” by The New York Daily News.

    Kent Nicholson has ​directed a handful of productions at South Coast Repertory, mostly musicals—ranging from The Light in the Piazza (2013) to Once (2017). But his hope was to direct Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street—which he did to acclaim at SCR in 2019. “The whole endeavor … was just a dream,” he says. Read on to find out more about what made the production special for him and why he chose the photo above as a key moment from the musical.  

    What moment does this depict?

    This is from the middle of the song “A Little Priest,” which is the Act 1 closing number. It also happens to be one of Sondheim's lyrical masterpieces. Honestly, one of the cleverest songs in the musical theatre canon. The picture one generally associates with this number is the iconic photo of the original cast members, Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou, arms aloft with a rolling pin and razor respectively. It's also the moment when Mrs. Lovett hatches the plan to make meat pies out of Todd's victims. It's funny, grotesque, vengeful and full of joy. All the things the musical is, in one number.

    How did you work to make this moment happen?

    I chose this particular moment because it reflects our approach to the show. The trend in productions of Sweeney Todd of late has been to really lean into the darkness of the tale. The macabre and grotesque of it all. And the tragic irony of the ending. And certainly, that is a really valid way to view the musical! But, what I love about the piece is that it is flexible enough to be side-splittingly funny as well as horrifying. It's a dark humor, to be sure, but, if one gets the tone right, it is ever so funny. 

    The musical was derived originally from a 19th-century folk legend, popularized in the relatively new printed form of mass entertainment called the penny dreadful—cousin to the melodrama, which was a popular form of stage play at the time. So, we approached this production as a 19th-century melodrama, which was being performed by a troupe of down-and-out actors, all of whom had their specialties. I imagined the actor playing Sweeney as an actor who would make a marvelous Hamlet and the actress playing Mrs. Lovett as the ultimate music hall performer. 

    Jamey Hood, who played Mrs. Lovett, is one of the most inventively funny comic actors I know. And David St. Louis, our Sweeney, has an immense power and range. The difficulty in staging this number was that Jamey kept cracking us all up. She would constantly keep David on his toes and the number became a sheer joy to watch. More than any other picture from this show, I think the joy of making this piece and the joy of these two extraordinary performers shines through. I can't help but smile every time I see it. Which is always how I feel when I think back on the production itself.

    What’s the power about this moment?

    It's a pivotal moment in the play and a classic of Act 1 closing numbers. The song itself is a microcosm of the show, cycling through much of the tone of the show and ending on a real note of danger. But, this is the moment when the characters realize their potential and purpose. Lovett has a “genius” idea and it takes a while for Todd to get it; but, once ​he does, it's the first time you see him have any semblance of happiness or joy. It serves as a release for the audience as well: they really get to let loose and laugh. And it sends them to intermission on a giddy high, ready to come see how the whole endeavor will fall apart.

    Anything else you’d like to say about the photo or the production?

    I've had a lot of professional highlights at SCR in my time there. And I have loved each production I have directed in its own ways. But Sweeney Todd was a show that I had always hoped to one day direct. The whole team made it a dream—from John Iacovelli's 19th century inspired set, Melanie Watnick's grotesquely humorous costumes, Lap Chi Chu's wonderful ​lighting, and Cricket Myers sound design—the whole endeavor ended better than I could have imagined. David O, our stupendous music director, made the show sound and feel like a dream. And the cast was first rate. Just a dream from top to bottom.

  • We're Back!

    by 
    SCR Staff
     | Mar 18, 2021

    Innovation is Key to SCR’s 2021 Spring/Summer Season
    Starts with High-Quality Digital Offerings, Transitions to Live Performances
    Partnership With Mission San Juan Capistrano

    Season Logo
    David Ivers
    Watch David Ivers talk about the 2021 season.

    South Coast Repertory has ended its COVID-19 hiatus with the launch of an innovative 2021 Spring/Summer season. Recognizing that extraordinary times call for innovation, the 57-year-old theatre company examined the challenges and possibilities of producing live theatre and the protocols needed to maintain safety.

    SCRemote

    The season starts with SCRemote—a series of exclusively digital offerings beginning in mid-to-late April. These high-quality filmed productions created with a multi-camera setup by award-winning cinematic artists will be delivered for safe, at-home viewing through a user-friendly streaming platform. The digital offerings include Red Riding Hood (a Theatre for Young Audiences and Families production, which also will be offered free to Orange County public schools) and the Pacific Playwrights Festival, the theatre’s renowned annual showcase of new plays. The festival is part of The [email protected], the theatre’s extensive new-play development program. In addition, the theatre will continue its ongoing SCR commUNITY series of digital interviews and programming dedicated to amplifying the artists and narratives of the Southern California region.

    SCR LIVE

    Then in mid-July, SCR goes LIVE, outdoors at the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano, with a new series called Outside SCR. This year, two family friendly productions will be performed under the stars: American Mariachi, which is being brought back by popular demand, and the perennial family favorite, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

    “The past year has been challenging and, at the same time, has presented opportunities for creative growth,” says David Ivers, SCR's Artistic Director. “So, we’re excited to announce a season brimming with innovation, built on the cornerstone programs of South Coast Repertory—world-class productions, Theatre for Young Audiences and Their Families, new play development and community engagement. We’re overjoyed about Outside SCR and our new partnership with Mission San Juan Capistrano, which enables us to expand our reach in Orange County.”

    Managing Director Paula Tomei adds: “After a year-long hiatus, it feels so good to be back. This season provides the stimulating theatrical experiences that are hallmarks of South Coast Repertory, while meeting the unique needs of Orange County at this time, including a distinctive way for us to gather as a community. In addition, we have been consulting with UCI Health and working thoughtfully to ensure the highest level of safety for our artists, staff and audiences. We are fortunate to have their expertise and advice, which are invaluable.”

    Mechelle Lawrence-Adams, executive director of Mission San Juan Capistrano, says: “The Mission Preservation Foundation is thrilled to welcome South Coast Repertory’s community of patrons to beautiful Mission San Juan Capistrano this summer. For sure, new history is being made with this special partnership where the arts meet history and the net effect leaves theatregoers inspired to support both historic preservation and live theatre in this one-of-a-kind experience. Two incredibly important Orange County institutions are coming together in a pandemic to serve not only their own constituencies, but new ones as well—and it marks an exciting moment in OC history.”

    In addition to innovations in programming, format and experience, the usual subscription series have been temporarily suspended in favor of á la carte subscriptions, wherein customers are invited to experience either the entire lineup or to pick and choose what they wish to see. SCR’s regular subscription series will be re-instated for the 2021-22 season.

    South Coast Repertory’s health and safety protocol has been developed with advice from the University of California, Irvine. 

    Buy á La Carte Subscription

    CHRONOLOGICAL LISTING

    Dates are subject to change, in accordance with local and state health authorities.

    Theatre for Young Audiences—SCRemote
    Red Riding Hood
    by Allison Gregory
    directed by Shannon Flynn
    Available to stream mid-to-late April

    Pacific Playwrights Festival—SCRemote
    SCR’s annual showcase of new plays by today’s hottest playwrights, the Pacific Playwrights Festival will be offered exclusively in digital format, with high-quality film production, created with a multi-camera setup to capture the best qualities a traditional play reading. All readings are recommended for high school age and older. 

    Covenant
    by York Walker
    Streaming: April 26-May 2

    Coleman ‘72
    by Charlie Oh
    Streaming: May 10-May 16

    Park-e Laleh
    by Shayan Lotfi
    Streaming: May 24-May 30 

    Clean
    by Christine Quintana
    Streaming: May 31-June 6 

    Harold & Lillian
    book & lyrics by Dan Collins   music by Julianne Wick Davis
    based on the documentary film by Daniel Raim
    Streaming: June 21-27

    OutsideSCR—LIVE
    Live, outdoors, in-person performances, under the stars, at the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano.
    American Mariachi
    by José Cruz González
    directed by Christopher Acebo
    Performances: July 15, 17, 23, 25, 29 and 31 (all at 7:30 p.m.)
    Performed at Mission San Juan Capistrano

    You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
    based on the comic strip “Peanuts”
    by Charles M. Schulz
    book, music and lyrics by Clark Gesner
    additional dialogue by Michael Mayer
    additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa
    Performances: July 16, 18, 22, 24, 30 and Aug. 1 (all at 7:30 p.m.)
    Performed at Mission San Juan Capistrano

  • The Story Behind the Photo: "Outside Mullingar"

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | Mar 12, 2021
    Outside Mullingar
    Scott Ferrara and Richard Doyle in Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley (2020). Photo by Jordan Kubat.

    About ​​Outside Mullingar

    A “softhearted comedy freckled with dark reflections” (The New York Times) by the author of Moonstruck and Doubt. Near Killucan, Ireland, Tony Reilly schemes to sell the family farm and disinherit his son, Anthony. Standing in his way is a small plot of land belonging to the neighbor, Rosemary—and her long-simmering grudge. Destiny—whether embracing or fighting it—means everything in this very Irish story told with a rich tapestry of language, compassion and a few surprises.

    Richard Doyle, a South Coast Repertory Founding Member, had been in dozens of the theatre’s Irish plays over a half-century—out of his more than 200 productions here. The most recent was Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley, a little gem of a romantic comedy that rehearsed in February 2020 and was into preview performances in March 2020. It was the beginning of California’s COVID-19 lockdown and the play closed the day before its official opening. Undaunted, SCR quickly put in place a small crew of videographers to film the final preview performance, edited it and then streamed it for audiences to enjoy from the safety of their homes. Doyle selected this photo [above] as an important scene from the play.

    What moment does this depict?

    This is Scene 4—in Tony Reilly's bedroom. That’s me in the bed as Tony and Scott Ferrara plays my character’s son, Anthony. This is a key moment: Tony has a desperate need to confess some truths and relieve himself of the burdens he has carried for years. He needs to reveal to his son some parting emotions that Tony has been reluctant to take responsibility for. Tony is not accustomed to sharing his feelings. He would normally find this hard, but his health at this moment, and the manner in which he has treated Anthony throughout his life, makes for some difficult moments, some even comic revelations and, finally, some emotional sharing in a very highly charged moment in their lives.

    This is a difficult type of scene to stage because there is very little movement; it’s mostly dialogue, and mostly focused on relationships and storytelling, but it requires complex emotional dynamics while building the story telling arc. Scott was shouldered with listening, reacting and showing his love and devotion to my wily old Irishman character who, for the better part of the story so far, has given him nothing but grief.

    How did you work to make this moment happen?

    Martin [Benson, director and SCR Founding Artistic Director] and I have been friends and colleagues for more than 50 years and he has directed me many times—and often those outings were Irish plays. He and I have a sort of short hand between us when we work together. When he approached me about Outside Mullingar, I jumped at the chance for us to work together again.

    Scott Ferarra is roughly the age of my own son, Brennan (not in the photo or the play, not even an actor, thank goodness!). Scott was perfect for this character because, in addition to being a fine actor, he has a well-developed sense of empathy.

    There is humor in the play and, leading up to this particular scene, all of the characters joust with Tony, who is very set in his ways. He has decided his son will never marry and therefore will not be able to carry on the Reilly family's 120-year-old farm and family tradition. These earlier encounters with Tony actually set up this scene.   It is John Patrick Shanley's warm and comedic moments early in his play that make this one, so compelling and emotionally stirring.

    What’s the power about this moment?

    Power, humor, emotion, revelation, discovery and, finally, peace are all earned through Shanley's writing and the careful sculpting and emotional shaping of this two-and-a-half-page monologue. Tony's story reveals his life's journey—a life without affection, where people were work; but, eventually, it was a journey filled by a love that magically appeared to him in a way only his misunderstood son could comprehend. This unbridled love was for his late wife, Mary. At that point in his life, Tony had found and understood the importance of love and devotion and the value of faith in personal relationships, but to convey that now to Anthony, at this moment, while also seeking to gain forgiveness for Tony's missteps and propel Anthony forward into a future life open to finding love...well, only an Irish writer of plays would even attempt this. The playwright unburdens one character of the threat of leaving this world with a soul full of unresolved issues and catapults another into the rest of the story, armed with all that is needed to complete a heart-warming romantic comedy. Writer John Patrick Shanley somehow finds surprising ways to accomplish this very task.

    Anything else you’d like to say about Outside Mullingar?

    First and foremost, it was a cracker​-jack cast. Lovely Lynn Milgrim as Aoife Muldoon—delightful, warm and tough. Devon Sovari as Rosemary Muldoon—at once strong and sensitive. And Scott Ferrara as Anthony Reilly—a dreamer. I could not have asked for more from my fellow cast members. And, of course, Martin, me old mate, directing. For me: The Best.

  • The Story Behind the Photo: "Shakespeare in Love"

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | Mar 04, 2021
    Shakespeare in Love
    Carmela Corbett and Amelia White in Shakespeare in Love (2018). Photo by Jordan Kubat.

    About ​​Shakespeare in Love

    Young Will Shakespeare is desperate. He has writer’s block and owes two demanding producers a new comedy—a half-baked mess titled Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter. Enter his inspiration: Viola. Smart, beautiful and Will’s greatest admirer, she will stop at nothing—including breaking the law—to be in his play. As their love blossoms, so does his greatest masterpiece. Mistaken identities, ruthless scheming, and backstage theatrics make this romantic feast “a joyous celebration of theatre” (Daily Telegraph).

    What happens when an actor gets the giggles? For Carmela Corbett, it was a sign that she was having a great time portraying Viola in South Coast Repertory’s production of Shakespeare in Love (2018). Of course, it also meant she had to concentrate a bit more to stay in the moments of the play, but it also signaled to her the joy she felt with the play and the cast. This production marked her ​third SCR show—​she also has been in Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl (2012) and Smokefall ​by Noah Haidel (2013). Read on to find out more about why she selected this photo [above] as a favorite scene from the play—and how she conquered the giggles.

    What moment does this depict?

    I always adored this moment in the show—it’s right at the top of the play. It was my first scene and my character, Viola, is dreaming of a life in the theatre and complaining that men get to play all the roles! For me, this short and simple scene would set the tone of the whole performance: Am I in my body? Am I listening? Am I connecting with the other actor? This was a complicated show with lots of comings and goings and quick changes and kisses and dances and songs and music and wigs and sword flights and ​a dog! So, this simple scene at the top of the play, just talking to Amelia, always felt like a dream. If I could get grounded on stage ​in this moment, then I knew that the rest of the show was going to be okay.

    How did you work to make this moment happen?

    I think this scene required the least direction of any scene in the play! Afterall, there were no sword fights, no cross-dressing and no intimate poetry-filled love scenes! Straight away, Amelia and I had a very warm rapport working together and that informed ​our characters’ relationship beautifully. We often would get the giggles, so much of my attention was on staying grounded and not getting too carried away with it all.

    What’s the power about this moment?

    This scene contains my favorite line that I've ever had the good fortune of saying in a play: “I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all.” What a powerful way to start a show! I hope this sentiment rings true in my own life and work, as I'm sure so many of us do.

    Anything else you’d like to say about the photo or the production?

    I would do it again in an instant! When we finished our run, I was quite heartbroken. The whole experience of participating in this play was incredibly healing for me. I had recently come off the long run of a very serious play in London’s West End and was incredibly burned out. So for me to play on stage with these brilliant, generous, warm and hilarious actors each night was a dream. There is so much joy and fun and laughter and heart in this play. It was like a balm to my soul.

  • The Story Behind the Photo: "Sense and Sensiblilty"

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | Feb 26, 2021
    Sense and Sensibility
    Rebecca Mozo and Preston Butler III in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, adapted by Jessica Swale (2018). Photo by Jordan Kubat.

    About ​​Sense and Sensibility

    The Dashwood sisters—practical Elinor and impulsive Marianne—are of good social standing and marriageable age. When Father dies and their half-brother skimps on their inheritance, they are forced to leave their grand estate for a tiny, cold cottage. Just as life seems its bleakest, a handsome stranger arrives on horseback and the sisters are convinced their futures are secured. Follow Elinor and Marianne as they chase their dreams from Devonshire to London and back in this charming romantic classic

    Actor Rebecca Mozo has appeared in nearly one dozen productions at South Coast Repertory—ranging from Doubt, a parable to The Heiress to A Wrinkle in Time and In the Next Room or the vibrator play. In the Jane Austen classic Sense and Sensibility, she played Marianne Dashwood. She She chose this photo [above] as an important moment from the play.

    What moment does this depict?

    This is a moment of genuine connection. The excitement that floods you when you experience that kind of genuine connection. Willoughby (played by Preston Butler III) has just come to Marianne’s rescue after she injured her ankle while out for a walk on a stormy day. It is their first meeting. Although he is everything she has imagined the perfect man to be, in this moment she is convinced that he is a perfect match for her​: he names her favorite obscure poets as his own favorites! It is the spark of a moment when you realize someone gets you, that they cherish what you cherish. A shared heart.

    How did you work to make this moment happen?

    Casey Stangl, our director, had a beautifully clear vision for this scene and, in rehearsals, we were able to play around until the moment was found. It was pretty clear when this happened​: that “aha” moment when you feel seen by someone—and that you can see them as clearly as you see yourself. 

    What’s the power about this moment?

    There’s something incredibly pure about the moment where two people find each other in their own little private club. It’s the spark of acknowledgment that you’ve been starved for and there it is—in front of you—the beauty of beginning a journey with someone. However, the humor in this moment also shows how fleeting, and perhaps silly, those moments can be as well: we throw ourselves at a person before thinking it through, simply because they read the same poets as we do. After all, Jane Austen has created the quintessential “unavailable man” in Willoughby and Marianne cannot resist it. Until she can. 

    Anything else you’d like to say about the photo or the production?

    ​I loved this production. I miss ​South Coast Repertory more than words can truly convey and cannot wait to tread the boards with all of you again.