Blood, meat pies, a barber, and the NFL? In 2018, Arizona Broadway Theatre and the Herberger Theater were co-producing Sweeney Todd, a Tony award-winning musical about the Fleet Street barber. The show, in its Arizona Broadway Theatre rendition, lent itself to a spotlight walk-on role. While many of these roles came to be auctioned off or gifted to donors, one performance welcomed Rob Nkemdiche to the stage.
Although currently a free agent, Nkemdiche was drafted in 2016 as the 29th overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals. His star seasons as Mississippi landed him NFL first-round pick status after three years at University of Mississippi.
The walk-on role was simple: have your throat slit and bleed out before being dropped from the barber chair to the first-floor bakery. At least, that was the plan…
At 6’4”, 296 pounds, Rob Nkemdiche is a big guy. Far bigger than the average actor. This meant that the chute intended to drop customers from the barbershop to the bakery was far too small for the Cardinal’s star. Plus, Rob’s agent was concerned about Rob being injured as he slid through the chute. A small workaround and a switch of scenery allowed Rob to escape off the stage without being seen.
When he arrived, Rob was put into costume and makeup. The only potential problem was his size 14 shoes, but luckily Arizona Broadway Theatre had a pair that fit perfectly.
“Would you say you are more nervous to have your head chopped off on stage or play against the Rams?” asked Katherine Fitzgerald.
“My head chopped off, for sure,” replied Nkemdiche.
Rob, though never having been a professional actor, managed to put on an all-star performance that elicited many laughs from the crowd as he accentuated the blood pouring from his neck more than the role may have intended. Nkemdiche credited his performance to his days in drama class.
The experience was a hit, earning Nkemdiche and the Herberger Theater sports channel coverage by FOX sports, AZ Central, and a handful of football writers.