INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK O’HARA

Enjoying a dinner and a show is a great way to get rid of the “rainy day blues” and a great way to enjoy dinner and a show is provided by the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org).

Now through November 1, the Candlelight Theater is presenting “Sweeney Todd,” a musical with the full title “Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” The show’s program cover touts the show as “A musical like no other — a love story and the darkest of comedies wrapped in a tale of murderous revenge.”

The show’s run coincides with the Halloween season and offers theater-goers a macabre experience that fits in with Halloween’s celebration of death. The musical, which made its debut in 1979, features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler. The musical is based on the 1973 play “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” by Christopher Bond.

Patrick O'Hara

Set in 19th-century England, the musical tells the story of Benjamin Barker, alias Sweeney Todd, who returns to London after 15 years of being banished to Australia on trumped-up charges. He comes back to London to extract revenge on the judge who banished him.

The two main characters are Mrs. Lovett, who runs an unsuccessful meat pie shop, and Todd, who resumes work as a barber when he gets back to London. In the Candlelight production, Patrick O’Hara plays the title role and Catherine Ard plays Mrs. Lovett.

“I’ve been a great fan of this show as far back as I can go,” said O’Hara, during a phone interview this week. “I first saw it at the Players Club of Swarthmore a long time ago. I watched all the versions on PBS and also the movie with Johnny Depp.

“It’s a strong ensemble piece although the movie had a lack of ensemble. It’s a multiple love story but it’s also really a tragedy. It’s an actor’s dream to play these intentions. The play is so beautifully crafted the way it was written. It’s chilling. It has a haunted feel. There is a melancholy.

“Sweeney Todd is so depressed and he can get very sour very quickly. Playing Todd, I didn’t want to get too dark or too sullen. The role of Mrs. Lovett is to inject levity. She manipulates Todd to do her bidding so he is as much a victim as anyone else.  What’s great about the stage version is the tension — the suspense of wondering what is going to happen.”

O’Hara is a Drexel Hill native and a Syracuse University graduate who studied theater and theater design. He has starred in a number of shows at the Candleight Theater, including “Annie” (Daddy Warbucks), “Chicago” (Amos) and “Damn Yankees” (Mr. Applegate).

“There are definitely some challenges playing the role of Sweeney Todd,” said O’Hara. “Vocally, it’s very demanding. There is the physical business — fast songs with slow movement and slow songs with fast movement. And, it’s almost all sung.”

Video link for “Sweeney Todd” — https://youtu.be/DPOBOQIIeVY.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).