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December 06, 2021

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Attend The Tale Of ‘Sweeney Todd’ in MTSU Theatre’s Grisly Musical Revival

Hungry for some live entertainment? MTSU Theatre students have just the recipe and are saving the best seats — and the choicest cuts — for you Nov. 4 – 7 in this fall’s Tony and Olivier Award-winning Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Performances of the Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler musical open at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 4-6, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7, in Tucker Theatre, located inside MTSU’s Boutwell Dramatic Arts Auditorium at 615 Champion Way.

Tickets, available now at mtsu.edu/sweeneytodd, are $15 general admission and $10 for K-12 students. Guests can use the coupon code “MTSU” for a 20% discount.

MTSU students, faculty and staff can attend free by presenting a current university ID at the Tucker Theater box office.

Guests must follow MTSU’s mask and other health safety requirements inside Tucker Theatre. The theatre is fully accessible for people with disabilities, including those with hearing, vision and mobility impairments.

Sweeney Todd, which first opened on Broadway in 1979 and has seen multiple revivals worldwide along with an Oscar-winning film adaptation, is a gruesome melodrama based on 18th-century tales from the “penny dreadfuls” of serial Victorian fiction.

Sondheim took a 1973 play by Christopher Bond and expanded it into a grisly musical with more than two dozen songs, focusing on a vengeance-minded Victorian barber, unjustly convicted of murder and exiled by a lecherous judge, who returns home after 15 years. He quickly becomes a real killer and teams up with his landlady, a baker, when she suggests using her meat pies to dispose of the bodies left in his wake.

Department of Theatre and Dance professor Kristi Shamburger, who’s directed MTSU Theatre’s last several seasons of big-ticket musicals, including Godspell, 9 to 5: The Musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Peter Pan, West Side Story and Les Misérables, is at the helm of this year’s Sweeney Todd.

Her co-director is MTSU School of Music vocal performance professor Will Perkins, an internationally acclaimed tenor and performer who specializes in opera and musical theater. He directed productions at Indiana University, Sylvia McNair’s Opera Workshop and Brigham Young University before joining MTSU’s music faculty in 2019 as a director of the school’s Opera Theater Program.

“We’ve been talking about making this project happen for a couple of years and love getting to share resources from both of our departments!” says Shamburger.

“To do a show with this many musical and technical demands is huge, and we’ve been so thankful for all involved — it is quite a ride!”

“It’s been a fun thing to put together,” adds Perkins. “It was a lot of work to make all the wheels spin the right way, but we are so excited to be working on ‘Sweeney Todd.’

“It’s been really fun for students to collaborate in this new way — for the singers to rub shoulders with people who are acting and moving their bodies all the time in a different way than they’re used to, and for the actors to get a different level of musical training that this show calls for.”

The MTSU cast includes Max Fleischhacker, a senior theatre major from Knoxville, Tennessee, in the lead role of Todd, and Sandy Flavin, a Master of Liberal Arts student from Hermitage, Tennessee, as his landlady and partner in crime, Mrs. Lovett.

They’re joined in the musical’s eight main roles by voice majors Dakota Paschel, a junior from Knoxville, Tennessee; Jaedyn Heil, a Murfreesboro junior; Cameron Roberts, a sophomore from Knoxville; Tyler Middleton, a senior from Maryville, Tennessee; Josh Smith, a senior from Morristown, Tennessee; Alex Baldwin, a junior from Manchester, Tennessee; and Walker Barnett, a freshman from Murfreesboro; and by Emma Bastin, a freshman theatre major from Lebanon, Tennessee.

Understudying the three female roles are sophomore voice majors Haylee Casper of Smyrna, Tennessee, and Zakyra McKinney of Brentwood, Tennessee, and senior voice major Julie Webster of Lynnville, Tennessee. The trio are also part of the show’s 26-member ensemble.

A complete cast and crew list for Sweeney Todd is available at mtsu.edu/theatreanddance/SweeneyTodd.php#Program.

Because of its theatrical depictions of violence, murder and physical abuse, the show is recommended for audiences of at least high school age. A brief video trailer is available at bit.ly/MTSweeneyToddfall2021.

The 2021-22 MTSU Theatre schedule, which is part of the 10th season of the College of Liberal Arts’ “MTSU Arts” brand for the university’s fine arts programs, also includes productions of:

  • Anon(ymous) by Naomi Iizuka, set Feb. 17-20.
  • The annual MTSU Theatre6x10: 10-Minute Play Festival, set March 24-27.
  • Fun Home, Lisa Kron’s Tony-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, set April 7-10.

For more details on Sweeney Todd and the other productions, visit mtsu.edu/theatreanddance/currentseason.php.

For more information about MTSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance in the College of Liberal Arts, visit mtsu.edu/theatreanddance. For details on MTSU Arts events and supporting its student programs in the Patrons Society, visit mtsu.edu/mtsuarts.

About the Author

Michael Aldrich

Michael Aldrich is Nashville Parent's Managing and Entertainment Editor and a Middle Tennessee arts writer. He and his wife, Alison, are the proud parents of 18-month-old Ezra.