Mark Benninghofen sharpens singing voice for Theater Latté Da’s ‘Sweeney Todd’
September 24, 2015 - accent chair
This is Mark Benninghofen’s stage.
At a finish of a prolonged corridor in a Minneapolis Lumber Exchange building, Benninghofen welcomes a caller to Shout Creative — his voice-over and promotion business. The whole operation is in an bureau so little that Benninghofen can’t circle his large executive chair by a slight aisle so he can get out from behind his “banker’s desk.”
No, problem. He hoists a chair — one of those big, comfy commander models — and carries it to a patch of open building subsequent to this reporter. He flashes a big, toothy grin and signals he’s prepared — prepared to put on a Mark Benninghofen show.
And it is a good show. Over 90 minutes, Benninghofen will dump names like confetti, plate luscious off-the-record gossip, quote chunks of Shakespeare, burst adult to impersonate a characters that stock his fluffy dog stories about flourishing adult outward Chicago, bombing during his initial low-pitched try-out in New York, doing radio in L.A., operative with Tony Kushner and sitting nervously in a Ritz Theater run in Minneapolis watchful to hear how his try-out went for a epic pretension purpose of “Sweeney Todd.”
Spoiler warning on that final one: They favourite him and Benninghofen will perform his initial low-pitched museum purpose in Theater Latté Da’s prolongation of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” that opens Saturday.
Sweeney Todd? Nothing like jumping into a low finish of a pool.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
What: Words and song by Stephen Sondheim. Book by Hugh Wheeler. Directed by Peter Rothstein for Theater Latté Da.
Where: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Av. NE., Mpls.
When: Opens 7:30 p.m. Sat.; 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Oct. 25.
Tickets: $35-$45. 612-339-3003 or theaterlatteda.com.
“This is a genuine step-up impulse for me,” he said. “ ‘Sweeney Todd’ is a play that is sung, that’s how we demeanour during it. If we can get by a singing, we know we can tell a story.”
On stage, Benninghofen has a natural, unscrupulous attract and a busy, kinetic appetite — prudent and complicated in gesticulate and posture. His voice is supple, nonetheless in a healthy timbre it cuts like a beef knife.
He’s no opposite on his little theatre of genuine life.
“Ronnie Wood!” he growls with his best Irish accent. “You travel out of a sauce room and there’s Ronnie Wood! And he’s saying, ‘Come here, mate.’ And he grabs we and says ‘That was [expletive] awesome.’ ”
Benninghofen wheels his chair over and sticks his mop in your face, marveling that a Rolling Stones guitarist came to a opening of Irish classical “Juno and a Paycock” during a Guthrie when a rope was in city in June. He jumps from his chair and measures Wood with a palm during his shoulder.
“He’s usually this small guy, yet there he is, it’s him. He was over a moon.”
Benninghofen sits behind down and grabs your bend — he’s a master of a small hold on a knee, a daub on a thigh, a squeeze on a bend as yet these are theatre directions, for emphasis.
“You usually don’t consider you’re going to accommodate a Rolling Stone.”
Rolling with a punches
Benninghofen tasted early success in New York and came to Minneapolis for a tail finish of a Liviu Ciulei epoch during a Guthrie in 1984. He got good notices yet Garland Wright called him in shortly after apropos artistic executive in 1985.
“I remember, we sat there and he looked during me. He was so mystical,” Benninghofen said, putting his palm on his chin and holding an index finger alongside his nose in a classical Garland pose. “And he usually said, ‘Hmmmmm, no.’ ”
So a immature actor had to make his bread in other places and held a courtesy of radio promotion talent Craig Wiese.
“In those days, if Craig hammered we on a front and pronounced we were good, we worked,” he said.
This began a remunerative career in blurb work and a arrangement of Shout Creative, that is wedged impertinence by jowl into Audio Ruckus recording studio. He’s finished well.
Benninghofen stretched his horizons to Los Angeles and in a late 1990s he scored a unchanging purpose in “Movie Stars,” a sitcom on a WB network starring Harry Hamlin and Jennifer Grant (“Cary Grant’s daughter,” he reminds you).
It was a lot of fun, he said, yet a uncover usually lasted a integrate of years and in 2000, he and his wife, Jill, started changeable behind to Minneapolis, where they had kept their home. Raising a family here appealed some-more than “the flats of Burbank.”
‘Tyrone’ was his sheet back
Benninghofen says it was “Tyrone and Ralph,” a play by Jeffrey Hatcher about Guthrie and Rapson, that regenerated his Twin Cities theatre career in 2008.
Joe Dowling held a show, during a History Theatre in St. Paul, and dual weeks after closing, Benninghofen sent an e-mail to John Miller-Stephany, Dowling’s associate.
“It usually said, ‘Can we come play during your house?’ ” Benninghofen recalls.
He was asked to try-out for what would be a high-profile project: a new Tony Kushner play, “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism With a Key to a Scriptures.”
Benninghofen stands and imitates Dowling — for whom he has frank good adore — walking to a list on a initial day of a project.
“Joe goes over and flips open his folder and says, ‘Where’s my [expletive] script?’ ” Benninghofen said, now means to giggle during a surreal occasion.
Kushner, of course, had no book during that time.
“He had a finger portrayal of a play in his mind,” Benninghofen said. “That initial day, we had a four-hour review about dockworkers, Red Hook, lesbians, capitalism.”
The play famously non-stop a week late during a Guthrie in a open of 2008, with Kushner rewriting furiously adult by previews.
“It was a terrifying journey yet it energized a place,” pronounced Benninghofen, who portrayed a disloyal father of a impression played by actor Linda Emond, a Kushner confidante.
There were shrill whispers in a internal museum village during a time that members of a New York environment didn’t provide a internal actors really well. Benninghofen won’t tell anything on a record yet he did contend a knowledge taught him a lesson: “If you’re ever operative in a play with other ‘people,’ we have to find a turn personification field.”
Actor Sally Wingert, who plays Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd,” pronounced Benninghofen practices what he preaches.
“There’s not a pinch of diva about him,” Wingert said. “He goes out of his approach to get to know everybody.”
Since “The Intelligent Homosexual,” Benninghofen has kept bustling during a Guthrie (“Appomattox,” “Born Yesterday,” “Juno”), Park Square (“Shooting Star” with Wingert), little Dark and Stormy Productions and recently in a film “The Public Domain.”
He mostly plays drunks (“I adore personification drunks and apparently I’m good during it”) and for a film he had to play a dissolute ad executive held in a compromising position, in bra and panties, with a mistress.
“I asked [director] Pat Coyle, ‘Does he have to be this bad?’ ” Benninghofen said, shouting during a memory. “There’s usually no good approach to fire that scene. You get into your bra and panties and … ”
Early ‘Sweeney’ fan
Benninghofen and his mom saw Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury in a Broadway prolongation and after he picked his chin adult out of his lap, he bought a cassette and played it and played it.
In fact, he and Jill had “Nothing’s Going to Harm You” achieved during their wedding, 19 years ago.
It creates sense, then, that Benninghofen sent Wingert a note when he review in a paper that she was going to play Mrs. Lovett in Latté Da’s production. Wingert told him to call executive Peter Rothstein.
“He pronounced ‘I’ve never finished a low-pitched audition,’ so we set adult some time for him to work alone with Denise [Prosek, song director],” Rothstein said. “It’s not startling that he’s got good tone. He knows his instrument and he has a tip and a bottom of a register.”
Rothstein believes that a Stephen Sondheim classical has good malleability. His expel has a operation of voices, from operatic to immature and well-bred to penetrating.
“It’s not going to be an operatic ‘Sweeney,’ ” Rothstein said. “It’s been finished in many styles.”
Wingert sounds assured of Benninghofen’s ability to sing a role.
“He has got lungs a distance of Texas,” she said. “He’s got all of that ability set. When we were flourishing up, we got funneled into true plays or musicals. We went true plays.”
Benninghofen positively knows he will need to sing, a plea that scares and excites him.
He also knows, though, that he contingency know a impression and toward a finish of a interview, he leans his conduct behind in his chair and recites impulse from a little Gloucester, who will turn Richard III. A midlevel director busted Sweeney Todd’s life, attacked him of fun and density and good. So, too, Richard confronted his fate:
“And am we afterwards a male to be beloved? O grievous error to bay such a thought.”
Benninghofen goes on to quote a whole debate — from Henry VI, Part 3 — savoring a difference of Richard’s cold integrity to destroy all in his path.
He didn’t skip a word.
What a performance.
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Graydon Royce 612-673-7299