TALK THROUGH IT ◊ EPISODE TEN
FOR OUR FIRST TALK THROUGH IT FOR SWEENEY TODD, STUART MELTZER CHATS WITH MUSICAL DIRECTOR PAUL TINE ABOUT BRINGING LIFE TO THE TALE OF THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET.
Stuart: Hi Paul Tine!
Paul: Hello Stuart Meltzer!
Stuart: How are you?
Paul: I’m excellent, how are you?
Stuart: I’m doing well, I think we’re both exhausted. My eyeballs are hanging out of my head and your fingers are hanging off your hands—because you’re doing a lot of piano playing
Paul: yes indeed!
Stuart: We’re doing Sweeney Todd!
Paul: Yes we are! A Sondheim masterpiece.
Stuart: Yes it is. So. We open in a week, from when we’re talking we have exactly a week until preview. It’s been quite a rollercoaster, hasn’t it?
Paul: It has, I mean I think it’s been a sort of equal amount of struggle and reward. I think that every time we conquer something it’s very rewarding and we get it in our bones. The stuff that we tear our hair out with turns out to be the ones we have the most fun with once we get it, so it’s been tough but I think it’s been a steady climb.
Stuart: Right, Paul you serving as Music Director for our production and is recently, not transplanted, but a visitor, don’t fully know perhaps… but you’re from Connecticut.
Paul: Yeah, right outside of Hartford in Newington, Connecticut and I came down to Florida to work the season down here, so I’ve been here since October.
Stuart: You’ve been working with Slow Burn Theatre.
Paul: I worked with Slow Burn on several of their shows I started with Freaky Friday an then we did Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and then we had Legally Blonde and finally Jekyll and Hyde. It’s been amazing being down here. There is so much amazing theatre happening in South Florida, there are so many people who are incredibly talented working and sharing their amazing talent with everybody. It’s been truly a privilege to be down here.
Stuart: Is this your first Sondheim?
Paul: It is not, but it is my first time doing a full production with orchestra- Sondheim. But the first show that I music directed was Into the Woods and prior to that point I had always pretty much been onstage and this [Into the Woods] was my first time being on the other side of things behind the score with the orchestral part, and it totally opened my eyes to the world of music directing and how wonderful storytelling can be from the musical end of things. I also did Follies.
Stuart: You did Follies?
Paul: Yes! It’s gorgeous! I love that show!
Stuart: Wait. You music directed Follies?
Paul: I did! At Stage Door Manor we did it with 14-18 year olds and it actually worked pretty well!
Stuart makes a face
Paul: I know… Stage Door Manor is a theatre camp I work at.
Stuart: Wait. They did Follies at a theatre camp?
Paul: Yeah we do all sorts of shows and it was beautiful.
Stuart: That’s CRAZY.
Paul: yeah… yeah. But it’s not the wildest thing that’s been done there!
Stuart: I just think what a choice! That was a choice made by somebody!
Paul: The director was a huge fan of the show, which I totally understand why, and he decided to do it so we did it!
Stuart: I know, I know, I’m excited because it’s actually having a revival in England this summer! I love Follies, even though I will admit it’s something that—you know as the work of Stephen Sondheim’s is one of my biggest influences as an artist, as a storyteller, his work speaks to me so deeply—I love it greatly, but you know Follies to me is something that seems so far away from me. For me. I can only imagine how beautiful it was in the original production with the costumes and just being in that space. So, you know, as music director (and we’re doing an eight person Sweeney Todd, with some incredible musicians).
Paul: Absolutely incredible musicians.
Stuart: What have been the challenges or what are you learning?
Paul: I had seen a couple different productions of Sweeney and I knew that I loved it, I had also seen one that had been done with a small cast and I knew it could work, so I didn’t have any trepidation about it. It’s been…I heard prior to coming here how brilliant and creative you are as a director, so it was very fun seeing how we took, still keeping the essence of the storytelling and the material as much as we can, but shaping it in a way that works in this set up with the stage design, and with this sort of abstracted at times storytelling. I think it’s working really well and I’m so glad that we have such amazing actors working on it with us.
Stuart: I feel blessed, and I feel blessed working with you on the project
Paul: I think the most fulfilling part of this is kind of, I was talking to someone today actually about just how crazy the story is on paper, how it’s just gory and kind of repulsive, the concept of this barber and these pies and how the show is so wacky to think about it. But the way the material is set, and the way the actors are delivering it, you take it from something that could be just gruesome and weird and hard to get into, and it somehow comes together to be something that if you do it right it becomes Sweeney Todd. There’s a reason it’s so popular, it’s taking material that is so out there and turning it into something that you didn’t expect you’d be able to enjoy only because of how the story is told. So I think it’s been fun watching the actors make sense of that—some of them in ways that I haven’t seen before which is so entertaining.
Stuart: Well you haven’t worked with any of these actors before! They’re all new!
Paul: Completely fresh!
Stuart: Lastly, why do you think people should come see this Sweeney Todd?
Paul: I think people should come see this Sweeney because it is absolute virtuosic singing, acting, staging, and you will laugh way more than you think is appropriate.
Stuart: I like that! Thank you!