The witless Tobias, performed by freshman Will Gounaris, and the conniving Mrs. Lovett, played by senior Jamie Bokman, participate in a rehearsal of "Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street" March 23 in preparation for Century High School's upcoming performances this April._- Original Credit: Wiley Hayes/Correspondent Photo
The witless Tobias, performed by freshman Will Gounaris, and the conniving Mrs. Lovett, played by senior Jamie Bokman, participate in a rehearsal of "Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street" March 23 in preparation for Century High School's upcoming performances this April._- Original Credit: Wiley Hayes/Correspondent Photo (Wiley Hayes / HANDOUT)

As it happens, each spring, high school drama programs throughout Carroll County prepare for their spring musical productions.

And those with an appreciation of theater — or perhaps residents who have a similar flair for the dramatic — will be in for quite a show at the upcoming performances at Liberty and Century High schools this April.

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Century High School is in full swing rehearsing and setting the cues for its upcoming production of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

The story follows the eponymous character who is sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn't commit by a judge who — in a move harkening back to King David in the Old Testament — draws up the verdict with a mind to steal the hapless barber's wife, said Lucas Hewitt, director of the performance.

Upon his release from prison, serendipity sets the barber up with a woman who enables him to exact revenge on those who wronged him, in a manner reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter.

"[Todd] meets the owner of a pie shop, Mrs. Lovett, and they use that relationship to get what they want: He kills people and she bakes them into meat pies and sells them to the community. It's darkly comedic and a musical thriller," Hewitt said.

The performances are scheduled at 7 p.m. April 7, 8, 9, 15 and 16, with one 2 p.m. matinee on April 16 in the auditorium at Century High School, at 355 Ronsdale Road in Eldersburg. Tickets are $12 in advance or at the door and can be purchased ahead of time by visiting the drama club's website at www.centurydrama.com.

Hewitt, who has been the director for six years, said that during his time involved with the program the drama students have put on very family-friendly shows. The students had been requesting to put on "Sweeney Todd" for several years in order to appeal to an audience in their age range, he said, and because it was a "student favorite."

"[The musical] is challenging in terms of the dramatic nature of the piece," Hewitt said. "The challenge level is well beyond typical high school productions, so we are challenging ourselves to meet that demand as well as give the students complex characters to allow them to delve into them; they are really heavy in context."

As with other high school musical productions, the students are the driving force of the school's effort in putting on the performance, he said.

"They design and build the sets; they are in charge of the lighting and sound; they construct props; they have a hand in almost all aspects," Hewitt said. "They really help create the entire production from scratch."

Liberty High spring performance

Liberty High School's drama students are also planning to put on a comedic performance — but without the darker side.

The school is gearing up for its production of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," a musical based on a 1988 film starring Steve Martin and Sir Michael Caine, who portray two con artists competing to find out who can scam their latest mark the quickest — whoever loses has to leave town.

"These conmen are rough and tumble and just flying by the seat of their pants," said Christina Hughes, director of the performance. "The show takes us through the hilarity of them trying to con people."

Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. April 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23, with matinees scheduled for 2 p.m. April 16 and 23 in Liberty's auditorium at 5855 Bartholow Road in Sykesville. Tickets cost $10 in advance and $12 at the door, she said, and can be purchased beginning April 4 by visiting the drama club's website at www.lhsdramaclub.com.

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Though the decision to put on the show was ultimately hers, it came early in the school year, which is actually very late to pick a production, Hughes said.

"We decided early on that the show we had originally picked just wasn't going to work for our school," she said.

"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" appealed to her, she said, since she saw it on Broadway in 2004.

"It literally made me laugh out loud," Hughes said. "It's not showtuney like a lot of musicals; it's got a catchiness and sassy, Hollywood feel that really gets under your skin."

It was more than just the hilarity inherent in the performance that caught her attention though, she said.

"I thought this would stretch our kids into a style of show they weren't accustomed to," Hughes said.

The production is something Liberty's drama students were a lot less familiar with and less accustomed to, and something that would get them ready for the acting world beyond high school, she said.

"Once you do this professionally, you are constantly auditioning for something you may have never heard of before," Hughes said. "The performance carries with it authentic character development in a musical that's not a love story, or about overcoming a great hurdle; it's about the innate human need for connection and fulfillment and I like what the show has to say about that."

The show will also be great practice for Liberty High School's upcoming performance during the National Thespian Festival this summer, she said.

In January, Liberty's drama club — as well as any other school in Maryland with a national thespian society — competed to represent the state in the national competition, and Liberty was named the winner. The drama students involved will be traveling to the University of Nebraska, Lincoln over the summer to compete, she said.

"Our students are doing all of it — I literally only direct," Hughes said. "They design the costumes, of which about half are hand-made; they design then build the sets with supervision; our lighting is done by the students; and they handle all the choreography. Obviously I have a say on how to do it, but they figure out how to bring the performance to life."

Wiley Hayes covers the South Carroll area. He can be reached via email at wileyhayes@gmail.com or by phone at 443-286-1606.

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