Friday, September 16, 2016

Sweeney Todd: Who's at the Helm

For the first time in our 70 year history, we are producing Stephen Sondheim's musical masterpiece Sweeney Todd. Once we selected the title, we knew we'd need a powerhouse team to bring the show to its full potential. Cue Lenora Thom and Jerry Crouch, who describe themselves as having "a musical marriage made in heaven."

Musical Director Lenora Thom and Director Jerry Crouch at a recent rehearsal of Sweeney Todd.
Photo by Rodney Smith / Tempus Fugit Design
Over the years Jerry and Lenora's partnership has thrilled and entertained ACT audiences with hits like Annie, Fiddler on the Roof, Guys & Dolls, Annie Get Your Gun and Cabaret. They have also collaborated on the Business Sings Broadway event. Between the two of them, they have clocked in over one hundred musical productions.

They met in 2000 when Jerry was searching for a musical director for ACT's production of The Music Man. Jerry and Lenora recently shared their memories of how they met:

"I inquired of then Asheville Symphony conductor Robert Hart Baker and the ASO marketing director Steve Hageman: "Who is a strong candidate for me to interview for this position?" Both looked at each other and replied "Lenora Thom, of course ... but she is too busy to do it!" remembered Crouch.

Lenora had just moved to Asheville from NYC, and Jerry contacted her immediately. After deciding to pool their budgets in order to hire an orchestra, they embarked on their first production together and Asheville musical history was made.

In regard to their planning strategy for a musical production, Lenora and Jerry are certainly in musical simpatico. In fact, they almost finish each other's sentences! The secret (both agree) is hitting the ground running with two solid weeks of music (under Lenora's sharp eared tutelage) – and for Sweeney Todd, this includes the nine principals and the chorus of 24. When actors are free from those music intensives, Crouch is busy staging the songs and scenes in another part of the theatre.

For Sweeney Todd, 78 actors auditioned and Jerry and Lenora selected a cast of 33. About half of the cast is new to the ACT stage, including Steve Parkin who stars as Sweeney Todd. Parkin has a background in opera and theatre and describes this as his own "bucket list dream role." Christy Montesdeoca is making her ACT musical debut as Mrs. Lovett.

"As a musical partner, Lenora's ear and her unerring judgment are peerless," said Jerry. "To quote a line from Cole Porter's "Friendship," it's the perfect blendship."

Sweeney Todd runs October 7-30, 2016 at Asheville Community Theatre. Need tickets? Get them here.

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