Experience leads Sweeney Todd

Erin Wrinkle

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Senior vocal performance major prepares for big role

Senior vocal performance major Andrew Jamison will star as Sweeney Todd in the Theatre Department’s production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Jamison has performed in over 20 operas and musicals. “It has been a very long road to get where I am, and I’m just now getting started, he said.”
Photo by Hanwool Lee

Lights, camera, action!

With some 30 students rehearsing their roles and dozens more preparing sets, costumes and makeup, the theater and music departments are almost one month into rehearsals for their rendition of the musical Sweeney Todd.

Performing in the lead role, Andrew Jamison said, “I really enjoy the collaboration with the theater department. Surprisingly we don’t cross paths much and I enjoy their kooky personalities,” Jamison noted.

Theater and music students auditioned for Sweeny Todd last semester in December.

Out of the many students who wanted to be a part of this production, director John Dement said there are around 40 theater students and 15-20 music students who were either cast or work as a crewmember.

But there can be only one Sweeny Todd. Dement said Jamison had the experience and talent that led him to get the role of Sweeny Todd.

“Andy has a great voice and stage presence,” Dement said.

Heather Berryhill, a junior in theater arts, agreed with Dement.

“Due to his amazing stage presence, as a chorus member in the show I have been able to react on stage to his theatrical choices he makes,” Berryhill said.

Jamison, a senior in vocal performance, said he has been singing as long as he can remember and has enjoyed being on stage since he started college. Since then, he has been in more than 20 staged operas and musicals.

“It has been a very long road to get where I am, and I’m just now really getting started,” Jamison said.

The senior perfects his talents by continued teaching through the years.

“I have been taking voice lessons for more than ten years and each show teaches me so much more,” Jamison said.

The Wichita Falls native has been cast as Jekyll/Hyde, Tony in West Side Story, Figaro in the Marriage of Figaro, and Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte just to name a few.

Berryhill said she believes Jamison’s operatic voice is what makes him a good Sweeney Todd.

“He has that low, demanding voice that is perfect for the role,” she said.

Dement said he believes Jamison being older helps his maturity as an actor and as a singer.

“Being older than the average student, he brings a maturity to his work that the other students can only develop with time,” Dement said.

The acting veteran spends time in and out of rehearsal preparing for his upcoming role.

Andy Jamison, Sweeney Todd, and Whitney Lebow, Mrs. Lovett, rehearse Friday night for the opening performance of Sweeney Todd.
Photo by Hanwool Lee

“We rehearse three hours a night, Monday through Friday and I spend at least two hours a day outside of school practicing and memorizing,” Dement said.

But the casts’ work isn’t done yet. “Memorizing is a particular problem at this point of rehearsals,” Dement said, “there is a lot of music and so many lines to learn”.

“When we get closer to the show, we will rehearse every day until we open,” Dement added about the rehearsals for Sweeny Todd.

Jamison said he is excited to add his role as Sweeney Todd to his resume.

“This show has always intrigued me. It is a very dark show with great ensembles,” Jamison said. “I love Sondheim’s music and enjoy the difficulty of it.”

Because of his musical expertise he has been a good fit for Sweeny Todd, Berryhill said.

“As a music major he has really impressed us all with his ability to take on such an iconic role in musical theatre,” Berryhill said.

Jamison said he appreciated all the work being done by the dozens of cast and crew members, including scenic designer Don Herschel, costume designer Elizabeth Lewandowski, pianist Sandra Cunningham, musical director Rachael Kapelski and vocal coach Don Maxwell.

“I want to praise the organization and dedication of the technical and stage management crews,” Jamison said. “Having a cast with such great talent is going to make for a spectacular show.”

As opening night approaches Jamison looks forward to his favorite scene is “God That’s Good.”

“It begins in the second act and includes most of the cast,” he said.

Similarly, Berryhill said she enjoys when Jamison performs “My Friends.”

“That is my favorite scene he does because his emotion towards the role really comes out through his singing,” Berryhill said.


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