Poster design by Chris Millspaugh

KU Celebrates Music, Theatrics, and Gore in Production of Sweeney Todd

Written by Max Bryan


Content warning: Contains spoilers and mentions of violence 


The two things I love most in a musical are fun hairstyles and cannibalism. Sweeney Todd and the Demon Barber of Fleet Street has both, which was fortunate for me as this was the show the University of Kansas University Theater and School of Music put on this year. Sweeney Todd was a bold choice as it’s a technically demanding show to pull off, but the University Theater executed it with grace. Sweeney Todd is a horror-comedy following protagonists Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett as they start a business killing people and turning their flesh into meat pies, all while plotting revenge on the judge who took Sweeney’s daughter. The show is not for the faint of heart. Besides themes of violence, it depicts sexual perversions, heartbreak, and loss. Despite this, it’s an absolute blast to watch. The violence is taken all in good fun, and the twisted nature satisfies the morbid side of the mind. 


This production was a spectacle in the highest regard. There was so much to see everywhere you looked. The most striking feature of the show was the set. Large, multi-leveled, and rotating, it was visually stunning. The lighting played off the set brilliantly- gloomy but vibrant. The costumes were tastefully crafted to catch the eye yet still managed to blend into the ensemble. The pit orchestra under the direction of Dr. Creston Herron was immaculate and added wonderful energy to the production. Student performances were exceptionally done as well; each role was casted well to each actor’s strength and each musical number was performed with energy and charisma. A personal highlight was the performance of Tobias Ragg by Brandon Heflin who brilliantly played comic relief throughout the show before descending into madness- terrifying but electrifying to see. The production was a blast to watch and I can now say Sweeney Todd is one of my favorite musicals. 


Every year the University of Kansas theater department puts on multiple plays and musicals. Check out the theater department website so see which shows are coming up!