LAWRENCE — Audiences to the University Theatre’s next production will enjoy cheery musical numbers, over-the-top costumes and sweet storylines driven by even sweeter characters — literally, some of them are gingerbread cookies. Through all that, along with self-aware humor, a satirical message on capitalism and corporate greed emerges. “Milking Christmas, A New Musical” was composed by Ryan McCall, University of Kansas Department of Theatre & Dance faculty member, in collaboration with Friend Dog Studios. McCall serves as musical director, and Michelle Miller, a KU lecturer, is directing.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 2, 4 and 6 as well as 2:30 p.m. Dec. 2 and 3 at the William Inge Memorial Theatre at Murphy Hall. Tickets are available for purchase on the performance web page, by calling 785-864-3982 or in-person at the box office noon to 5 p.m. weekdays in Murphy Hall. Additionally, the Dec. 2 and 6 performances will be available to view online via livestream.
“Working on a new musical is not for the faint of heart. Nimbleness is required to navigate change. It’s been a benefit to this process that one of the writers is KU lecturer and musical director Ryan McCall, who has empowered student cast members to influence what will be the final version of the script,” Miller said. “It’s been a joy to watch students generate and own every inflection without an ounce of mimicry and confidently ad lib comedic lines with bravery. I am so incredibly proud and sincerely hope those living in and around Lawrence come to campus to meet the people of Christmastown.”
“Milking Christmas” was originally produced and developed by The Living Room Theatre in Kansas City for showings in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022. It follows Macey Maid-a-Milking, who questions why so much coal is being produced and sneaks into Santa’s castle to see the naughty list. Dissent rises, at first individually and then collectively, with the future of Christmas hanging in the balance.
Miller’s participation in “Milking Christmas” is made possible in part by the Ronald A. Willis Visiting Scholar/Artist Fund. She has performed with the New Haven Symphony, The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, the Boston Pops and at the Lincoln Center. The singer and actress was previously a visiting professor at Boston College and founded Any Minute Now Productions, with which she performed and produced in New York. She helped found ASTEP–Artists Striving To End Poverty, worked on The Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, and produced a documentary play, “To Welcome the Stranger,” following her friends as they reunited 130 families separated at the border. She holds an MFA in writing for stage and screen from Fairfield University.
McCall’s KU work includes musical direction for “Cabaret,” “La Cage aux Folles,” “Spring Awakening,” “Company,” “Little Women,” “Into the Woods,” “Merrily We Roll Along” and “Anything Goes.” He was the composer for KU’s productions of “...and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi,” “Man Equals Man,” “Summer and Smoke” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” McCall has worked professionally with Kansas City Ballet, Second City, Improv Olympic, KC Rep, Giordano Dance Company and The Living Room Theater.
Additional creative team members are Tara Leigh Burgat, a senior in dance, as choreographer; Kelly Vogel, resident artist/academic associate, as scenic and costume designer; Josh Gilpin, an MFA student in scenography, as lighting designer; Brad Mathewson, a recent KU Theatre alumnus and freelance writer, as guest dramaturg; and Connor Maloney, a junior in theatre design from Wichita, as stage manager.
“Milking Christmas” cast members are Coy Garrett, a senior in theatre, as Macey Maid-A-Milking; Maya Welde, a junior in theatre performance and Spanish, as Mrs. Claus; Brandon Heflin, a sophomore in microbiology from Olathe, as Santa Claus; ShonMichael Anderson, a sophomore in theatre performance from Wichita, as Chris Claus; Canton Schenk, a sophomore in theatre from Topeka, as Clyde; John Stecher Jr., a freshman in theatre from Overland Park, as Krampsnickle; Paul Ruf, a sophomore in biochemistry from Overland Park, as Ginger; Morgan Tate, a first-year student from Shawnee, as Citizen Cane; Olivia Laycock, a junior in theatre design from Wichita, as Mole; Cooper Holmes, a sophomore in theatre performance from Overland Park, as Jingle; Callee Harris, a junior in psychology and social welfare from Hutchinson, as General Sparkleshine; James Kensinger, a sophomore in chemistry from Topeka, as Lieutenant Puddings; Madi Seelye, a sophomore in dance from Lawrence, as Lady Dancing; Basia Schendzielos, a senior in French from Shreveport, Louisiana, as Carol Jolly; Eve Green, a sophomore in theatre from Kansas City, Missouri, as Holly Hunter; and Sierra Quinn, a freshman in theatre and voice from Smithville, Missouri, as Santa’s Lap Singer.
The University Theatre and University Dance Company are production wings of the University of Kansas’ Department of Theatre & Dance, offering six public productions throughout the academic year. The University Theatre and University Dance Company productions are funded in part by KU Student Senate fees, and the theatre’s season is supported by Truity Credit Union.