Hoof 'n' Horn's 'Sweeney Todd': Behind the Scenes


This past week, Hoof ‘n’ Horn began its fall show in Shaefer Theater—kicking off the group’s 80th anniversary season. The oldest student-run musical theater organization in the South, Hoof ‘n’ Horn decided to see this accomplishment as a motive to strive to new heights in this season’s first show, "Sweeney Todd.”

“At the start of the 80th season, let’s push the limits on what Hoof ‘n’ Horn has been,” Producer Shade Adeyemo said.

The group’s production of “Sweeney Todd” certainly has pushed the limits—with a trap door and a slide, the set itself is an innovation.

“We’ve grown in terms of what we think we can do. Instead of saying we can’t afford to do that or can’t do it in Shaefer, we set out to do it—and then do it,” Adeyemo said.

In addition to forming the set, the group was challenged by the fall semester starting a week later this year—meaning a week less of rehearsal time. As a long show with difficult music, “Sweeney Todd” would be a feat to master even without the time constraint. In order to put on a great production, the cast and crew came together to overcome—and even flourish over—the obstacles to the show’s success.

“I think we are using every bit of rehearsal we possibly can, but I’m proud of everyone and I’m very excited,” Musical Director Christina “Beanie” Burt said.

A poignant show, “Sweeney Todd” called on the actors to play deeply emotional parts—asking them to master difficult music as well as skillful expression.

“The biggest part is just getting the emotional trajectory right of the character, because he goes through a lot of emotions in any given scene and song,” said Austin Ruiz, the actor of title character Sweeney Todd.

In focusing on the emotions felt by each character, the actors also worked to highlight the emotions between characters—an aspect of the story often overlooked by “Sweeney Todd” productions.

“What’s different is we’re focusing on the relationships of the show, which can be glossed over a bit. Since it’s such an emotionally charged show we wanted to highlight them,” Ruiz said.

Successfully accentuating the relationships on stage, Hoof ‘n’ Horn members used the significance of the show as a motivation to strengthen relationships with new and past members.

“I really loved getting to meet the freshmen and new people to Hoof ‘n’ Horn—that’s the best part of doing the fall show. It’s been exciting to take these people under my wing and be the warm face of Hoof ‘n’ Horn to them,” Burt said.

In celebration of their anniversary, the group decided to strengthen connections with their alumni—with efforts such as creating a homecoming show and sending a Hoof ‘n’ Horn newsletter to current and past members.

“I spent the summer putting together a newsletter that goes to around 700 people,” said Rebekah Wellons, Fundraising & Alumni Relations Chair.

To add to reaching out to their roots, the group also continues their long-held traditions.

“We have a tradition that we pass down quarters, and every quarter has a unique background or meaning. It’s given to members who represent what the quarter embodies,” Wellons said.

Begun in the 80’s, one example of a quarter is the “New Kid” quarter, given to a first-time Hoof ‘n’ Horn performer at their first performance. For the past ten years, the group has also incorporated a specific dance into every show they produce. In “Sweeney Todd”, the Hoof ‘n’ Horn dance is in the number ‘God, That’s Good!’.

Combining old conventions with new aspirations, Hoof ‘n’ Horn’s “Sweeney Todd” is a thrilling show, perfect for the Halloween season.


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