SALT LAKE CITY — DeLaney Westfall isn’t British, but for more than a year, she’s done everything she can to convince people she is.
After spending five months performing as Northampton factory worker Lauren in Broadway’s “Kinky Boots,” Utah-native actress Westfall was cast as a 19th-century Londoner named Johanna in the Off-Broadway production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” — and had a weeklong overlap of performances for one and rehearsals for the other.
“I would sometimes just get really confused because during the day, I was doing a standard British accent (for ‘Sweeney Todd’), and then at night, I’d have to switch it very slightly to this Northampton accent (for ‘Kinky Boots’),” Westfall said in an interview. “You just have to switch your mindset.”
That ability to switch characters on a dime isn’t foreign territory for the actress, and it’s a skill she attributes to her training at Brigham Young University and experience in Utah’s theater scene — a scene to which she is returning for a short time.
Bringing along all her experience from New York to once again step into Johanna’s shoes, Westfall will perform the role inPioneer Theatre Company’s production of “Sweeney Todd,” which runs Oct. 26-Nov. 10.
“It’s like coming home,” said Westfall, who is originally from St. George but spent her college years along the Wasatch Front. “It’s just so nice and comfortable to be back.”
Westfall graduated from Brigham Young University’s music dance theater program in 2013 — a major she said is “kind of like a triple major” due to the rigorous training it provides in all three categories. But in addition to participating in the various performances associated with her education, Westfall also performed in about half a dozen productions between Hale Centre Theatre — then in West Valley — and Hale Center Theater Orem.
“I was always doing a show, and that above all else prepared me for the real world — being able to get up and audition and feel confident because I did it so much,” she said. “That’s how it is in New York with auditions; you just have to be ready for the next thing.”
In addition to a few ensemble roles, Westfall performed several lead and supporting roles at both Hale theaters, including Christine Colgate in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady,” Kira in “Xanadu” and Amber in “Hairspray.”
“I’m forever indebted to everyone (at HCT and HCTO) for what I gained in terms of training and experience because I honestly think that that is a huge factor to my success thus far,” Westfall said.
Among Westfall’s successes is her role in “Sweeney Todd,” both at New York’s Barrow Street Theatre and at PTC. Westfall dubs 2018 her “year of 'Sweeney Todd.'”
“It’s literally the only thing I’ve done all year, and that’s saying something,” she said. “It’s such a great show and I’m absolutely not sick of it.”
With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler, the thriller musical premiered on Broadway in 1979 and won eight Tony Awards, including best musical. “Sweeney Todd” features a vengeful barber returning to civilization after years of being unjustly exiled. As he takes his bloody route to getting revenge on the judge who sentenced him, Sweeney Todd joins forces with the pie-maker, Mrs. Lovett, who uses the barber’s blood lust to add a little something extra to her meat pies.
The premise is macabre — “It’s definitely a particular show for a particular type of people,” Westfall said — but she said she knows people from all walks of life who have enjoyed the show.
Westfall plays the part of Johanna, “a fun, quirky, strong-willed young woman that asks a lot of questions and falls in love.” The actress said Johanna is often played as the flighty ingenue or just another pretty face, but Westfall has worked to bring more to the role.
“I just want to give her depth and to give her relatability and to incorporate a lot of myself into it,” she said. “I think that’s what I was able to do with the Barrow Street version and that’s what I’m hoping to bring to this production.”
In addition to her roles in New York’s “Kinky Boots” and “Sweeney Todd,” Westfall’s post-college roles have included understudying for Daisy/Violet in the Broadway revival of “Side Show” and as Marilyn Wald in the national tour of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” as well as several regional credits. But no matter where she’s performing, Westfall said the rush of a job well-done is the same whether it’s at BYU or on Broadway.
“People will ask what it’s like to be on Broadway, but it kind of just feels like any other show at any other theater,” she said. “It’s doing the same thing … and the bows at the end feel also really great.”
Content advisory:According to PTC, their production of "Sweeny Todd" would be rated PG-13 for mild gore, language and sexual innuendo. They do not recommended the production for children under 10 and "older children should attend at a parent’s discretion," according to their website.
If you go …
What: Pioneer Theatre Company's production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
When: Oct. 26-Nov. 10, dates and times vary
Where: Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 400 East
How much: $44-$71