USM Receives Gift from "Sweeney Todd" Author | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

USM Receives Gift from "Sweeney Todd" Author

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — A cast of students at the University of Southern Mississippi was rehearsing for the play "Sweeney Todd" when a tornado hit the campus in February.

The play's cast rushed to a basement and they were not injured, but they lost their set and the campus performing center was in no condition to house the play.

Mike Lopinto, event coordinator at USM, wrote a letter to play author Stephen Sondheim, describing the story of the cast's misfortune. Lopinto had heard that Sondheim often answered fan mail.

The university says in a news release that the Tony Award winner responded with a $500 donation.

"So many wonderful people have done so many wonderful things for the School of Music during our time of crisis. I am grateful for them all, fame or not," said Lopinto. "However, to have an iconic figure in musical theatre not only write us, but also donate to help, was beyond my wildest dreams."

The show did go on in March, one week after its original dates, at another location, the Saenger Theatre in downtown Hattiesburg. The production had to be restaged and re-choreographed, along with a new stage plan and new lighting.

The proceeds from the student performances were donated to the university's tornado relief fund.

The F-4 tornado ripped through part of the campus and the town on Feb. 10, but there were no fatalities reported.

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