Arts & Culture

Tony winner finds depth in 'Sweeney Todd'

Capital Playhouse's "Sweeney Todd," opening Oct. 4, stars Tony winner Jarrod Emick.

"That's exciting and not usual for our town or our space," said artistic director Jeff Kingsbury. "And we're doing it really non-traditionally. We're doing it as a bunch of inmates in an asylum are telling the story."

Emick, who won a Tony in 1994 for his work in "Damn Yankees," says the Todd role, about a serial murdering barber, is the toughest one he's ever tackled.

"It's definitely the most difficult and deep role that I've ever done," he said. "I've been telling everybody back in New York that I'm kind of a 'Sweeney Todd' snob now. If you can tackle this, and you feel confident, you can tackle anything.

"I'm not there yet," he added. "I'll be rather comfortable with it just about the time we're ready to bring it down. If I were to do this show for a year, I would still be finding some things out at the end of the year. It's just that deep."

Kingsbury met Emick at the Black Hills Playhouse in Rapid City, S.D., when the then-14-year-old actor was in "On Golden Pond."

"It's really exciting to work with Jarrod," Kingsbury said. "He's done great work. Last spring, he was in the original Broadway cast of 'Ring of Fire,' the Johnny Cash musical. It lasted six weeks. We lucked out and he was able to put this into his schedule."

Although he's best known for all-American ballplayer Joe Hardy in "Damn Yankees," Emick said he relishes playing the bad guy.

"What's great about Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett is that you're rooting for them, but they're the bad guys, essentially."

When playing a good guy, he said, an actor has to let go of wanting to be liked or the character will be unrealistically sweet.

"With Sweeney, though, you have carte blanche," Emick said. "You like him. It's all set up for him. He's a man who was wrongly accused and wrongly imprisoned for a crime he didn't do."

Emick said there are differences between working on Broadway and performing for a small theater such as Capital Playhouse, but mostly they are differences of scale and budget.

"In theater, you cannot judge a success on the amount of your paycheck," he said.

The subtlety of setting "Todd" in an insane asylum and suggesting rather than depicting every detail only makes the production stronger, he said.

"Simpler is better," the actor said. "This is more Hitchcockian suspense than 'Oh, my God, look at the blood.'

"You want people to watch but with their eyes between their fingers," he said. "You want them thinking, 'I don't want to watch this, but I have to watch it.' I want them exhausted when they come out of there. I want them as exhausted as I am."

'Sweeney Todd'

What: Capital Playhouse is featuring Tony winner Jarrod Emick in the play about a serial killer.

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4-6, 10-13, 17-20 and 24-27, with matinees at 2 p.m. Oct. 7, 14 and 21.

Where: Capital Playhouse, 612 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia

Tickets: $27-$33, $21-$27 for those 16 and younger and seniors. For Wednesday's performance, pay what you can.

For information: 360-943-2744 or