Interview: Cassandra Marie Murphy's Sharpening Her Acting Chops in SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

A Noise Within puts their unique spin on Stephen Sondheim & Hugh Wheeler’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street opening February 17th

By: Feb. 01, 2024
Interview: Cassandra Marie Murphy's Sharpening Her Acting Chops in SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

Interview: Cassandra Marie Murphy's Sharpening Her Acting Chops in SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

A Noise Within puts their unique spin on Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street opening February 17, 2024 (with previews starting February 11th). ANW’s co-producing artistic director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott directs the cast of: Geoff Elliott, James Everts, Amber Liekhus, Joanna A. Jones, Jeremy Rabb, Cassandra Marie Murphy, Kasey Mahaffy, Josey Montana McCoy and Harrison White.  Cassandra, who plays the cutting role of Mrs. Lovett, graciously took time from juggling her rehearsals with her motherly duties to answer a few of my queries.


Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Cassandra!

Mrs. Lovett is a very coveted meaty role. Did you have to jump through multiple hoops to obtain this part? Or were you simply offered this because of all your wonderful past work with A Noise Within?
She is meaty indeed and deliciously so! I have been offered roles in the past but Mrs. Lovett is certainly not one of them. My audition process for this role was larger than any part I’ve auditioned for thus far. The material for my audition was mostly comprised of the first act of the play. And though it seemed titanic at the time I completely understand why one would ask for that amount of material… Mrs. Lovett is a titanic role. Just a little tidbit — A Noise Within was going to mount a production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in 2020. We were only three weeks away from starting rehearsals. I was precast in that production as the Beggar Woman. Alas, we all know what happened in 2020. Beggar Woman being a role I’d love to play at some point because she is a wildly fascinating character to me, I am thankful for my turn at Lovett.

What productions of Sweeney Todd have you seen?
I have seen every televised production of Sweeney Todd (who hasn’t?). And the 1st national tour revival at the Ahmanson Theatre.

Do you consciously wipe out the Mrs. Lovett you’ve seen to create your own? Or do you steal a little something from each?
There is an itch to tip a hat to every woman who has ever stepped foot in the role — I grew up watching and praising Angela Lansbury, Patti LuPone and Elaine Paige kill (all puns intended) the role of Lovett. And now, in most recent years, Helena Bonham Carter and Annaleigh Ashford — they have done wonders beyond wonders with the role. But at the end of the day Lovett has to be all mine. She is quite frankly the most challenging and gratifying role I’ve ever done in my career, and we are only halfway through rehearsals at this point, so getting the chance to have an audience experience this production and what we’ve accomplished is going to be a thrill.

If you were to submit Mrs. Lovett for a dating site, what qualities of hers would you list?
I love this question — it gave me a good laugh! Her bio might read something like this…
“Can cook, devilishly loyal, likes long walks on the beach, not a cat person, No crazy ex’s please #drama and would kill for you if necessary.”

What character flaws would you definitely omit?
Maybe, just maybe, the psychotic tendencies.

Do you have a shorthand in communicating with your fellow A Noise Within actors you’ve worked with before?
Yes, yes, yes... and that’s the beauty of being a Resident Artist. Some of these actors (and directors) I’ve worked with for a little over 6 1/2 years, with 7 productions within that time. The trust is already built into the fabric of the experience. And it’s such a rarity to have a theater home like this.

Any one A Noise Within actor you have acted the most with?
I would have to say the two would be Geoff Elliot and Kasey Mahaffy. My journey with A Noise Within started with Man of La Mancha, and both of them have been with me in almost every production since.
 
Interview: Cassandra Marie Murphy's Sharpening Her Acting Chops in SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET Both Julia and Geoff have directed you. Do you find this husband-and-wife artistic combo have similar styles in directing?
I think their directing styles absolutely complement one another. When they are co-directing a piece of theater, you know you’re going to be a part of something special. The last show they co-directed that I was a part of was last season’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The ability to find the heartbeat and the muscle of a play and build upon it and make it their own is masterful. One of my favorite days of starting a show with them is day one. When they reveal the concept, vision and, most times, the re-imagining of whatever play we are about to mount. Sweeney being no different. I just got a jolt of excitement thinking about audiences coming to see what Julia Rodriguez-Elliott has done with this Sweeney Todd. Oh boy… you’re in for a treat.
 
What cosmic forces initially brought you into the A Noise Within universe? Man of La Mancha in 2018?
Cosmic forces indeed! My first audition was for Aldonza in Man of La Mancha and Julia Flores was assisting the casting for the show. She so graciously called me in and 3 callbacks later they cast me. And the rest is history!
 
Your Los Angeles theatre resume is quite extensive. Are you at the point where directors call you for roles they’re casting rather than you having to audition for them?
I have gotten offers but I do a lot of auditioning and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Though offers for roles are wonderful, I feel like when you are given the opportunity to audition for a role with everyone else, you’ve truly earned it. When I walk in like everyone else and walk out with the part, it’s because I worked hard for it. There’s a lovely feeling of accomplishment. With that said — I’ll take the offers too!!

What do you remember of your experience playing Ellen in Miss Saigon in Macau China?
I remember the people and the surrounding ocean. We were the first company to bring Miss Saigon to China and it was a time I’ll never forget. The audiences were so welcoming, and if there wasn’t a tsunami warning I would’ve bungee jumped from the highest bungee in the world. Alas, the weather had other plans.
 
Any theatrical role you would love to sink your acting chops into?
Oh… there are so many, but one that really stands out now is Diana Goodman in Next to Normal.

What’s in the near future for Cassandra Marie Murphy?
The near future is opening this stunning production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street on February 17th. And then, quickly after that, hopping on a plane with our daughter Nora to see my husband, John Shartzer, in the first national tour of Clue and watch him have the country in stitches over his return to Mr. Green.

Thank you again, Cassandra! I look forward to experiencing your Mrs. Lovett.
Thank you so much for the wonderful questions!!

For tickets to the live performances of Sweeney Todd through March 17, 2024; click on the button below:




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