In Part 5 of a series of interviews with the director and cast of Laurel Mill Playhouse’s Sweeney Todd meet Garrett Matthew.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you on local stages before and what shows you and roles you have appeared in and played.
I’m Garrett Matthews and I grew up in Germantown and have been performing in the area since I was 14. Starting with Wild Wood Summer Theatre’s Grand Hotel, but most recently I have played Hermes in the Capitol Fringe Fest show Awake All Night, Also I did a production of Chess with Kensington Arts Theatre as The Arbiter.
Why did you want to appear in this production of Sweeney Todd? Have you appeared in other productions of Sweeney and if yes-who did u play?
I have been wanting to play Anthony in Sweeney Todd ever since I first heard the musical in high school. I saw that a friend of mine was going to the audition event on facebook for this show, Chad Wheeler who plays Sweeney Todd, and I immediately agreed to go to the audition. When LMP announced they were doing Sweeney a lot of people in the community theatre circuit were kind of buzzing about the show. Sweeney Todd is something I think almost every actor wants to be a part of. Great story, great music and it’s still so different from anything else out there.
How is this production similar or different from other productions you have appeared in, or seen?
I haven’t seen Sweeney done in as small of space as the Laurel Mill Playhouse, but it really is the perfect setting to bring people in to attend the tale of Sweeney Todd. The intimacy that the space brings will make the audience feel just a little less… safe, more a part of the story. TJ Lukacsina, the director, uses the space perfectly and really has every audience member in mind. He will be sure to keep them on their toes.
Who do you play and how do you relate to your character?
I play Anthony Hope. This character is who you wish you could be. He is also bit naïve but in the best possible way. Seeing good in everyone and eternally optimistic. His light shines so brightly. And has a moral compass like no other. I always really liked Anthony’s view on the world. His positivity and optimism work in such wonderful ways. Everyone tries to be the best that they can be, but Anthony it doesn’t look like he’s trying.
What have been some of the challenges preparing for your role?
Anthony’s character goes from Loving London to loving Joanna in a very short amount of time. Allowing yourself to fall so madly and deeply in such a short amount of time. To allow yourself to believe that that can happen is a miracle. I truly believe the way Anthony feels is a miracle. To feel so in love with someone you have barely even met. It’s beautiful and maybe a little disconcerting, but Anthony is completely genuine through and through.
How would you describe Stephen Sondheim’s score for Sweeney Todd?
I feel like I can write a whole essay to talk about how I feel about this score. And the title of the essay would probably be “A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim”. The music to Sweeney is amazing it is complex and smart and beautiful. Even when you don’t think the music will sound like it makes sense ONE element will come in that it will all just click. He uses dissonance in chords so wonderfully to express emotion and tension and atmosphere. Above all, I love how Sondheim writes actions in his music. There are times that maybe as simple as a hand movement or just a pause in action like a freeze, he writes it into the music. It’s almost as you are also putting on a dance in a way. In my eyes Stephen Sondheim is hands down one of the best American Composers that is living and has ever lived.
What is your favorite song that you don’t sing in the show and why?
The Anthony in me is saying to say “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” because that is the song Carolyn Freel, Joanna, sings, but I think I will have to say that you can’t beat “A Little Priest” – a whole song about eating people in pun form. Brilliant! A musical this dark having a song so bright and fun makes you feel like you are allowing yourself to step into the crazy a bit. Plus with Kay and Chad (Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd) they are not only talented singers but their acting is hilarious and unique and absolutely perfect!
What are your solos/duets and what do we learn about your characters as you sing these songs?
In Anthony’s song “Ah, Miss” is the song where he sees and falls in love with Joanna. He sees her for the first time and sings this song becoking her to just at the very least glance his way. Giving him a chance. He only needs one look. He believes if he just gets that one look he will feel completed. The duet and quartet that is “Kiss Me” Parts 1 and 2. Anthony learns that Joanna who he loves is a bit of a worrier and also desperate, which is completely warranted in Joanna’s case. He falls more in love with her seeing her has a damsel needing rescued.
What has been the most challenging scenes/songs to learn and perform and how has your director helped you to overcome these challenges?
One of the most challenging scene’s I have had is when Anthony is convincing Joanna to flee with him tonight. And A lot of times its Joanna is freaking out and Anthony is watching her. Filling in those voids can be weird and awkward sometime but TJ Lukacsina has a clear vision and at the same time is happy to discuss differing opinions. He will listen and ask questions and we are allowed to do the same until there is a consensus.
What do you admire most about your castmates’ performances?
Everyone is so dedicated to making this the best show it can be. We care about all the small details while putting our own stamp on it. It is spectacular.
What does Sweeney Todd have to say to modern theatregoers? Why do you think it is still so popular?
It still has that new car smell after all these years. It is a thriller suspense musical, which I don’t think there are any other of its kind that is as successful. The music still sounds new and different. This show requires musicianship skills that other shows don’t require. Quartets, quintets, trios, full cast numbers, dissonance, Eight-part harmonies, and let’s throw in a serial killer barber. Sign me up.
What is your favorite kind of pie?
Hot Cinnamon Apple pie with the crumbly stuff on top with vanilla ice cream and cool whip!
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Sweeney Todd at Laurel Mill Playhouse?
I want them to feel like they didn’t just see this show, but they experienced this show.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street plays October 23, 2015 through November 15, 2015 at Laurel Mill Playhouse – 508 Main Street, in Laurel, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 617-9906, or purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of Laurel Mill Playhouse’s ‘Sweeney Todd’: Part 1: Director TJ Lukacsina.
Meet the Cast of Laurel Mill Playhouse’s ‘Sweeney Todd’: Part 2: Chad Wheeler.
Meet the Cast of Laurel Mill Playhouse’s ‘Sweeney Todd’: Part 3: Kay-Megan Washington.
Meet the Cast of Laurel Mill Playhouse’s ‘Sweeney Todd’ Part 4: Carolyn Freel.
Meet the Cast of Laurel Mill Playhouse’s ‘Sweeney Todd’: Part 5: Garrett Matthews.
Em Skow reviews ‘Sweeney Todd’ on DCMetroTheaterArts.