Sweeney Todd at the Forum Honors Sondheim’s Vision

WICHITA, KS | Broadway’s Hit Musical Sweeney Todd is coming to the Forum Theatre in Wichita September 21-October 8; Winner of 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score, and currently running on Broadway. Wichita audiences can see this iconic and terrifying musical, starring local actor Shaun-Michael Morse as Sweeney Todd, alongside Mrs. Lovett, played by Wichita native and South Florida actor Kate Delaney. 

Sweeney Todd is the story of an unjustly exiled barber who returns to 19th century London, seeking vengeance against the lecherous judge who framed him and ravaged his young wife. Aided by baker Mrs. Lovett, the two concoct an unappetizing scheme as they terrorize the city on a murderous hunt for justice. At times shocking and heartbreaking, at others sweet, funny, thrilling, and disturbing, there is something in the tale of Sweeney Todd for every audience member.

Sondheim’s thriller musical was originally written to be staged in an intimate theatre setting just like the Forum’s Wilke Center. Inspired by a production of Christopher Bond’s play about the demon barber, the celebrated lyricist and composer decided he would turn it into a “musical horror story.” The show is over 80% sung; the music of Sweeney Todd was Sondheim’s nod to Richard Herrmann’s dramatic underscoring of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, with “ceaseless underscoring that would keep and audiences in suspense and maybe even scare the hell out of them.” The original Broadway production, starring Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou, was an immediate hit, and the 2023 Broadway revival (starring Josh Groban) has had similar success. 

Kathy Hauptman, Producing Artistic Director of the Forum Theatre, plans to take Sweeney Todd back to its roots by staging a production in the intimate black box theatre at the Wilke Center, as Sondheim originally envisioned. “I wanted to stay away from ‘concept’ thinking,” she said, “to create an environment where the simplicity of the story shines through.” Local actor Shaun-Michael Morse, who plays Sweeney Todd, has honed his gift for portraying the heart of tragic characters with his many turns as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. “That’s a gift that I discovered in that role,” he said, “is finding the heart underneath it. I am looking forward to applying that same skill to Sweeney. It’s easy to think, “Oh, I would never do that,” but I’ve asked myself, ….if someone came and murdered my children and my spouse in a heinous way, what would I do? And what would you do?” 

Forum’s set designer Ben Juhnke, along with the ensemble cast, will transport audiences to the dark streets of London in 1865. The set, which extends into the audience, will take on the grungy, industrial feel of the time period to illuminate moments in Sweeney’s tale of revenge, from his bare attic barber shop complete with razors sharp enough to kill, to Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop and bakehouse filled with delectable mystery meat pies. Christina Ashton (Costume Design, Sod and Stubble film) lends her knowledge of historical clothing to the costumes, which will give the whole show even more of a realistic feel. 

Linda Starkey, former Director of the School of Performing Arts at Wichita State University, is Musical Director, and Meg Parsley (Broadway National Tour of Kiss Me, Kate!) is choreographing. Local news personalities Ted Woodward (Steve and Ted in the Morning, KNSS) and Max Dutton (KWCH-12) are featured in the ensemble, and students Rachel Mullen (Friends University) and Zeke Thompson (Sterling College) make their Forum Theatre debut as young lovers Johanna and Anthony. 

Called a “devilish dream that demands to be seen,” Sweeney Todd is a dark, twisted tale of love and revenge that will terrify and captivate audiences the whole way through. The production will run September 21-October 8 at the Forum Theatre. Performances are Thurs-Sat at 8pm and Sun at 2pm. Tickets are $36, with military and student discounts available. 

The Forum Theatre Company, Inc. is a fully professional, not-for-profit theatre celebrating its thirteenth season in the heart of Wichita, Kansas. Performances are located in the Wilke Center, an intimate, senior-friendly black box theatre space at 330 N. Broadway. For more information about the mission of The Forum Theatre or to purchase tickets, visit www.forumtheatre.org or call the box office at (316) 618-0444.


Written by Nora Graham on September 14, 2023.