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Rep Stage Receives Prestigious Nomination for “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

students working in a garden

sweeny todd Rep Stage, the professional regional theatre in residence at Howard Community College (HCC), has been nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Ensemble for its highly successful production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” The theatre award, now in its 35th year, recognizes excellence in professional theatre in the Washington, DC area and is named in tribute to Helen Hayes, known as the “First Lady of American Theatre.”

Directed and choreographed by Joseph W. Ritsch with music direction by Stacey Antoine, “Sweeney Todd” wowed audiences and critics alike for its talented diverse ensemble of eight actors and a chamber orchestra of three. Ritsch, along with the cast and crew, was excited to learn about the nomination. “As artistic director, one of my job duties is casting the
actors in the season, so the fact that I cast this ensemble, as well as guided them as director of the production makes me very proud of this nomination.”

Director and choreographer Joseph W. RitschRitsch said “Sweeney Todd” has always been one of his favorite musicals. “I was particularly drawn to how modern the politics of the story felt in the current climate in this country,” he said. “I also love the hyper-theatricality of the piece. From the very start, a group of players ask the audience to go on the journey of this story. Right out of the gate, the audience knows that this ensemble is going to re-tell the urban legend of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

As a theatre creator, Ritsch is interested in representing a diverse community on stage and telling many different types of stories. “The ‘Sweeney’ ensemble was 
very diverse in race, gender, and age,” he said. “It also included early and mid-career actors who were cast in lead roles,” he said. “Rep Stage has always created those opportunities and that is something that means a lot to me.”

Sweeny Todd PlayAs a veteran of 23 Rep Stage productions, Howard County-based actor Nigel Reed, who played the character of Judge Turpin, said “Sweeney Todd” was one of the most challenging shows he has been a part of. “I believe this Helen Hayes nomination for Outstanding Ensemble is a testament to the fact that this fine company of actors, along with director Joseph Ritsch, achieved something artistically that was more than just the sum of its parts,” he said.

The 35th annual Helen Hayes Awards will be announced at an event at the Anthem in Washington, D.C. on May 13, 2019. “We are in a category with some of the largest, most respected theaters in the regional theatre community – Arena Stage, Signature Theatre. That alone is such an honor,” Ritsch said. “Would it be wonderful to win? Of course. But just to be recognized for the work is very special.”

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