Actress leads master class for Staples Players 'Sweeney Todd' cast

A fortnight before the curtain rises on the Staples Players' staging of "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," school edition, members of the student company got acting pointers and backstage insights into the 2005 Broadway revival of the musical production from one of its acclaimed cast members.

Award-winning Broadway actress, musician and singer-songwriter Lauren Molina last week shared with about 100 students the challenges of living in New York as a young performer, the rigors of the audition process, the joys of following the path to a long-held dream and the importance of being thick-skinned.

"This business, this world is highly competitive. If you can't take rejection step away," Molina said, speaking to students in Staples High School's black box theater, the rehearsal space for Sweeney Todd, which opens March 13 at the school.

Molina starred as the cello-playing Johanna in the actor-musician Broadway revival of John Doyle's "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," starring Patti LuPone and Michael Cerveris. David Roth, Staples drama teacher and director of the Staples Players' productions, said the students will perform an "apocalyptic version" of Sweeney Todd. "We moved it 200 years forward," he said.

Emma Ruchefsky, 17, one of the two Staples students playing Johanna in the local production, sang the character's signature song, "Green Finch and Linnet Bird," for Molina, who offered the student a mini master class before having Ruchefsky sing it a second time.

Molina stayed beyond the planned time of her visit to watch the students' rehearsal after school and continued to work with them, in particular with Ruchefsky and junior Caroline Didelot, the other Johanna, and Everett Sussman, who plays Sweeney Todd.

Molina got the role of Johanna two years out of college starting her career playing the elegant and refined character. The New York Times described Molina as a "sweet-voiced soprano." By contrast, her next Broadway role had her belting out rock tunes in "Rock of Ages."

"Versatility is helpful in this business," she said. Molina also plays multiple musical instruments and is in a band, The Skivvies, which performs stripped down musical arrangements in skimpy clothing that some have called "raunchy" and others "brave."

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'SWEENEY TODD' AT STAPLES
The Staples Players' production of "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," school edition, opens at 7:30 p.m. March 13 and continues March 14, 20 and 21, and at 3 p.m. March 15 at Staples High School, 70 North Ave.
Tickets are $10 for students, $15 for adults. Senior citizens can attend the March 15 matinee for $10. Tickets may be purchased online by credit card at www.staplesplayers.com or in the Staples lobby, Wednesdays through Fridays, March 11-13 and 18-20, 12:30 to 2 p.m. by check/cash only.

Nick Massoud, 17, a Staples senior who plays a judge in the school's production, asked Molina if it's difficult auditioning for people who have seen her performances on the Internet. Molina said some casting directors tell her `Oh, I didn't recognize you with your clothes on.' But she is unaffected. Molina said she could put more conservative material online, using as an example singing the song "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady, but, "I'm interested in pushing the boundaries," adding she wouldn't be where she is today had she not taken risks.

Molina also shared advice with the students that will serve them whether they plan a performing arts career or go into another field: Stay healthy, get enough sleep, eat well, don't smoke, drink or do drugs, "Be yourself" and "You can't dwell on the negative."

Junior Nicolas Ribolla, 16, who plays Pirelli in Sweeney Todd, said he appreciated Molina's comprehensive presentation. She was "extremely honest and didn't sugar-coat anything."

"It was interesting to hear from someone still in the auditioning process," said Noah Pines, 17, a member of The Staples Players who is not performing in Sweeney Todd. Noah said he learned from Molina "People want to see who you are and that you're unique and willing to take risks."

"She had an impact on the students and it was such a gift to them," said Noah's mother, Amy Pines, who was responsible for Molina's visit. Pines grew up in Michigan and is a friend of the Molina family.

The Staples Players' production of "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," school edition, opens at 7:30 p.m. March 13 and continues March 14, 20 and 21, and at 3 p.m. March 15 at Staples High School, 70 North Ave.

Tickets are $10 for students, $15 for adults. Senior citizens can attend the March 15 matinee for $10. Tickets may be purchased online by credit card at www.staplesplayers.com or in the Staples lobby, Wednesdays through Fridays, March 11-13 and 18-20, 12:30 to 2 p.m. by check/cash only.