On Fleet

Justin Gaudoin (Sweeney Todd) has previously appeared in Man of La Mancha and Hamlet, while Phyllis Davis (Mrs. Lovett) has appeared in The Borrowers and Cabaret.

Two friends, Anthony Tringali and Justin Gaudoin, came of age in local theater, including a high school production of Pirates of Penzance. From that time, Tringali wanted to direct Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and he thought Gaudoin would be perfect for the lead.

Tringali who has been acting since age 4, but now at 24 has left acting in favor of the business side, describes the dark gothic musical as beautiful.

“It totally captures you,” he says. “The story doesn’t sound very good – bloody and violent and weird – and it is. [But] the music is Stephen Sondheim; he’s a genius. You love [the characters], and you hate them. It’s a show that sticks with you.”

Tringali moved to Los Angeles to study film and producing at USC, when in 2016 he got a call: Gaudoin had convinced the Forest Theater Guild to let him star in, and Tringali direct, theirSweeney Todd.

The dream was coming true.

Tringali worked on it in L.A. for a year, then arranged to stay with his parents in Monterey as the opening drew closer and the cast started rehearsing. But this past June, three weeks into rehearsals, the FTG bowed out of the production.

When something like that happens, Tringali says actors can move quickly to commit to other shows, or jobs, or travel, etc. It looked like it was falling apart.

One of the actresses, upset at the turn of events, ran into a friend and recounted what had happened. That friend was Stacey Meheen, manager of the mostly quiet Wharf Theatre, who offered up her venue to the production. Hearing the news, everyone came back. Tringali is still directing, and producing it himself, with donations from supporters like wharf restaurateur Chris Shake, Tringali’s mother, Monterey Fish Company and others.

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The story has been kicked around since 1847’s The String of Pearls by George Dibdin Pitt, a stage production of an urban legend. It’s been adapted for television, stage, graphic novels, music and film, maybe most famously Tim Burton’s version starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

Tringali’s basing his direction on a Spanish production from the 1990s – purportedly Sondheim’s own favorite – for its gritty, serious approach. Tringali says there are funny parts, but that it should be played like a horror movie.

Set in 19th-century London, barber Sweeney Todd is set up by a crooked judge who steals his wife and child, and exiles him to Australia. Fifteen years later, Todd returns for revenge, which takes a dark, lethal and culinary course. Bon appétit.

SWEENEY TODD runs 7:30pm Thu-Sat, 3pm Sun, July 26-Aug. 5, at Wharf Theatre, 95 Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey. $15/military, seniors; $20/general (13 and older suggested). atringal@usc.edu, wharftheatremonterey.org

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