KU Theatre, School of Music Co-Present Sweeney Todd, Opening Feb. 16


Before the Broadway national tour begins, a local production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a Musical Thriller, will explore the psyche of the villain and bring the community Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant melodies with the help of KU Opera and Symphony Orchestra. Sweeney Todd is a co-production of the Department of Theatre & Dance and School of Music. It is directed by Stella Markou, an Associate Professor of Voice & Opera in the School of Music.

"It has been an extraordinary experience working with KU’s talented students, design, music, and management teams, as we have created an alternate dream world between horror and reality. Sondheim’s brilliant orchestration and sardonic use of text is a perfect foundation that catapults my vision of exploring even a darker side of humanity and its cruel injustices," Markou said. "Although our anti-hero Sweeney is transfixed in a questionable journey of redemption through revenge, I promise our audiences an unique and unforgettable rendering of this Tony winning and national touring production!"
 
Following an unjust exile, Sweeney Todd, a social outcast obsessed with revenge, returns to London in search of his family. Soon his barbershop becomes a front for murder, with help from his creative accomplice, Mrs. Lovett.
 
Performances are in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre at Murphy Hall. Sweeney Todd will play Feb. 16, 20, and 21 at 7:30pm and Feb. 18 at 2:30pm. Tickets are available for purchase at kutheatre.com/sweeney-todd, by calling 785-864-3982, or in-person at the box office in Murphy Hall Monday-Friday noon-5pm.
 
A talk with Paul Laird, a KU professor of musicology who has published extensively on the topic of musical theatre, will begin 45 minutes before each performance in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre.
 
The Friends of Theatre & Dance are hosting a pre-show reception and inviting all KU staff members Feb. 16 at 6pm in the Design Gallery hallway at Murphy Hall. Staff members interested in mixing and mingling prior to the show should RSVP by Feb. 7. Email Jack at jrischer@ku.edu. 
 
"portrait of a woman with brown hair and darker features she smiles slightly and tilts her head toward camera"Associate Professor and Coordinator of Voice at the University of Kansas, Markou is a nationally recognized director of opera and musical theater. She is also on faculty for the Festival of International Opera (FIO). Her directing and productions have garnered top recognitions. The Clever Artifice of Harriet and Margaret (2021) and The Pirates of Penzance (2019) won first place in the NOA’s opera competition, and her production of The Medium (2021) won first prize in The American Prize competition. She is a two-time recipient of The American Prize’s Charles Nelson Reilly Prize in Directing for The Medium (2021 -2nd Place) and The Telephone (2023- 3rd Place). Hailed as ‘exquisite’ by Gramophone, she performs internationally as a soloist in opera, oratorio, and on the concert stage. Previously, she has served as a teaching artist for Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Artist in Training Program and was the Director of Vocal Studies and Opera Theatre at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Markou holds degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the University of Arizona.  
 
The show’s maestro is Creston Herron, who serves as the Director of Orchestral Activities for the University of Kansas and serves on the faculty of the Interlochen Arts Camp as the Coordinator of Orchestras. He will conduct the Symphony Orchestra for this production. Herron has enjoyed national recognition as a conductor and educator with ensembles earning numerous national titles under his direction. Herron’s recent engagements as a guest conductor include work with Regional and All State ensembles in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and throughout Texas. He has also served on the summer faculties of the AFA Summer Music Festival, Stephen F. Austin University Summer Music Camp, and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Summer Music Clinic.
 
Joining them on the creative team are Department of Theatre & Dance faculty members Dennis Christilles, as scenic designer; Ann Sitzman, as lighting designer; and Jenna Link, as stage manager. In addition, Knox McClendon, a senior theatre design major from Topeka, is the costume designer.
 
Cast members are Reed Schenkel, a recent alum of the School of Music, as Sweeney Todd; Grace Steiner, a second-year DMA Voice student from Hayes, as Mrs. Lovett; Madeleine James, a MM in voice performance from St. Louis, Mo., as Johanna; Colin Bradt, senior theatre and voice major from Lawrence, as Anthony Hope; Eli Panek, a MA in music from Kansas City, Mo., as Judge Turpin; Zach Newkirk, a first-year student in journalism from Overland Park, as Beadle Bamford; Lei Zhou, a third-year DMA Voice student from Xiangyang, China; as Adolfo Pirelli; Brandon Heflin, sophomore microbiology, pre-med major from Olathe as Tobias Ragg; Jessi Rhinehart, a MM in voice performance from Tulsa, Okla., as Beggar Woman; and; as well as ensemble members Parker Bennett, a sophomore theatre and voice major from Kansas City, Mo.; Seth Bruey, a sophomore theatre performance major from Newton; Frannie Cihunka, a junior voice and theatre major from Omaha, Nebr.; Allison FitzSimmons, junior theatre performance and psychology double major from Lincoln, Nebr.; Hannah Gassman, senior voice and theatre major from Deerfield, Ill.; Callee Harris, a junior psychology and social welfare double major from Hutchinson; Cooper Holmes, a sophomore theatre performance major from Overland Park; Kailun Hu, first-year DMA student from Sichuan, China; Samuel Leopold, a first-year student majoring in voice from Wichita; Caden Moffitt, first-year student majoring in journalism from Overland Park; Canton Schenk, sophomore theatre major from Topeka; Meg Schiliro, a senior voice major from Elmhurst, Ill.; Natalie Sledd, a junior voice major from Kansas City, Mo.; Dymphna Watkins, a sophomore music composition major from Overland Park; Elizabeth Wellman, sophomore dance major from Lawrence; and Ella Widen, a sophomore speech, language and hearing and voice double major from Topeka. 
 
KU’s production of Sweeney Todd is licensed by Music Theatre International.