Musical Director for Sweeney Todd

» Posted by on Mar 13, 2016 in Musicals and Theater | 0 comments

Musical Director for Sweeney Todd

January was a blur this year! Fresh off of a trip to Peru over the holidays, my wife and I returned home and jumped straight into tech week for a musical we’d been involved in since November: Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, produced by St. Mark’s Players. Tessa was a soprano in the chorus, and I was Musical Director, conductor, and pianist.

It was many hours of work, advanced my music education considerably … and was tons of fun! The cast was comprised of 19 people – 9 principals and 10 in the ensemble. The orchestra I assembled varied between 10 and 12 people, depending on the night. We had a string quartet, percussion, French horn, trumpet, flute, clarinet, and English horn, which I thought made a very nice mix with the piano. Oh, and of course, the organ. There’s a dedicated organ score for the whole show, and we were fortunate to have the amazing St Mark’s organ available, and to find an organist/pianist who would switch between the organ and piano while I moved between conducting and playing the piano. It was a little tricky at first, but it didn’t take long for us to become a well-oiled machine 🙂

St. Mark's nave, which we used as our stage.

Considering the nave to be our stage.

It was held at St Mark’s church, using the nave as a stage. The church has wrought-iron posts, stain-glassed windows, wooden and marble floors, all of which provided a great set with very little effort from our tech team. I led the orchestra from upstage center as the actors made entrances and exits around us in their exquisite costumes and makeup.

With amazing voices in the cast, talented and experienced musicians, and excellent stage managers and crew, our 35-person operation put on quite a show!

Tessa's mom surprised us and came to all 4 shows the last weekend!

Tessa’s mom surprised us and came to all 4 shows the last weekend!

Lighting design by Jerry Dale adds to the menacing flavor of this tale by concentrating the viewer’s eye on conniving characters, young lovers, and ensemble scenes with equal expertise. Costumes by Rose Lane, embellished by accessories drawn from a trunk onstage, emphasize the brutal class distinctions at play in 19th Century London. Lightning-fast entrances and exits are executed flawlessly around a marvelous orchestra assembled by Music Director Jay Frost …
Amy Kotkin for DC Metro Theater Arts

… the powerhouse of an orchestra, led off by a thunderous pipe organ prelude, drove this production, enhancing its raw, urgent feel. Johanna’s birds could take pointers on how to “be more adaptive” from Jay Holcomb Frost, who doubled as conductor and pianist, at times straddling both roles, playing with one hand while waving his baton with the other. Adaptive characterized the entire orchestra, whose power and personality seemed to rise and fall to accommodate vocalists.
Derek Schwabe for MD Theater Guide




My fantastic orchestra for Sweeney Todd