The entire cast of “Little Shop of Horrors” comes together on stage for the finale, “Don’t Feed the Plants.” In this number, Audrey and Seymour come together after both being eaten by Audrey II as a final reminder for the audience to never feed the plants. (Lexi Critchett)
The entire cast of “Little Shop of Horrors” comes together on stage for the finale, “Don’t Feed the Plants.” In this number, Audrey and Seymour come together after both being eaten by Audrey II as a final reminder for the audience to never feed the plants.

Lexi Critchett

Don’t Feed the Plants

The cast and crew of “Little Shop of Horrors” dedicate months to rehearsals leading up to the production

The cast and crew of “Little Shop of Horrors” dedicate months to rehearsals leading up to the production

For the past four months, students designed costumes, arranged songs, and organized sets for their latest production, “Little Shop of Horrors.” Weeks of rehearsals led up to six shows spanning two weekends in which a plant sings and dances, a renowned dentist adopts rusty egg beaters as his official tool, and the audience is transported to downtown Skid Row.

BEFORE FEB. 18: THE CAST

 

 

With 27 different songs and over 20 characters, strong communication and careful planning are “vital” to the show, according to theatre senior and production manager Sunaina Singh. Preparing for the show required staying after school in the Brandt Black Box Theater to drill choreography and guide actors through cues until every flair of the hand was synchronized and sound effects played at the right moments. By opening night, most of the cast and management team had dedicated approximately 170 hours to the show at school and an extra 130 hours outside of school.

“The rehearsal process was super fun because not only were you trying to master all the blocking like you do in every show, but I got to work with a character as complex as Audrey (who has) such physical quirkiness and like habits that you wouldn’t have in everyday life,” said theatre senior Grace Trainor, who plays Audrey in the show. “As I got my makeup and costume and hair, it really helped me immerse myself in Audrey, and I think everyone can say the same about their characters.”

Theatre junior Avery Whitacre, the assistant choreographer and understudy for Audrey, was responsible for not only helping to create and teach the dances but also leading stretches and exercises. Before every run, the actors circled around in the green room for a series of warmups to prepare for the upcoming rehearsal.

“Each time we do the warmup, it changes. There’s always different leaders depending on the show, and it is a different time we chant out depending on the show,” said theatre senior Daniel Reiter, who plays Mr. Mushnik. “My favorite part of this warmup is seeing everyone at different levels. If it’s someone’s first show, they won’t know how to do the warmup and tend to pretend they do.”

As individual scene practices came to a close, the team started running through the full show. For director Charles Swan, assistant director and theatre junior Felicia Voehringer, and the rest of the management team, full runs help connect each aspect of the story.

“The typical day in rehearsal changed as we got further into the process, beginning with musical rehearsals where actors got the chance to learn and sing the songs as a group to full runs including tech,” theatre junior and stage manager Devyn Humble said. “We work hand in hand with the crews and crew heads to make sure all technical aspects of the director’s visions are met and executed.”

During a run-through, the management team fills binders and charts with feedback on anything from a slight modification in an actor’s step to the cutting of a portion of a song. After a run-through, they all sit together — typically circled on the floor of the Black Box — as Mr. Swan begins the critiques.

“Okay, are we ready?” he asks. In return, he receives a chorus of “yes,” along with one “here it comes.”

While the feedback is typically centered around the slip-ups the actors made, the critique was not without its compliments.

“I was in the baddest mood when this started for a number of reasons … but by the end I was having a very nice time, so that is the power of theatre. That is the gift of doing what we get to do. For two hours, you could literally help someone not have such a (bad) day,” Mr. Swan said to start off his notes. “You give them two hours of coming up for air, and that’s something, especially in these beautiful, tragic times.”

BEFORE FEB. 18: THE CREW

 

Behind each costume or set-piece was a team of technical theatre students constructing the stage for performers to shine on. They each joined or led a variety of different crews, including paint, build, props, lighting, and sound.

“I’ve been doing lighting design since sophomore year and it’s always made me happy,” theatre senior and lighting crew head Sophia Tartakovskaya said. “When I heard we were doing ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ a well-known, upbeat musical, I was super excited to have such a big show in my hands that I could play with and try new things.”

After signing up for a crew in November, students accrued skills and items needed before opening. For the props crew, this meant sorting through the props room, thrifting for set pieces, and renting an Audrey II puppet weighing over 300 pounds.

“It (set design) involves a long process of first rendering, then drafting, then modeling. For me, it can take up to five weeks to complete all these steps,” Singh said. “We needed to work with directors and bring the set to life. The process is a bit longer (and) involves some back and forth and compromises, but eventually, a consensus is reached and you can see that product on stage.”

To ensure that everything, including props and actors, were in the right place at the right time, the assistant stage managers had spreadsheets detailing the availability of a prop, its entrance and exit, and any characters interacting with it. For theatre junior and sound crew head Amberly Rodriguez, knowing when and where each character entered or exited was crucial to coordinating sound effects or unmuting microphones.

“I have to make sure that my cues match the show perfectly. The audience depends on me to hear the actors perform, so ultimately it’s my job to foresee that it happens,” Rodriguez said.

Despite missing eyeshadow palettes in the hair and makeup department or teeth falling off the puppet for props, the crew nonetheless prepared for opening night.

“The feeling of a performance that took so much time, effort, and sweat to bring together something so amazing, to finally sit in the back of an audience by my soundboard to watch and hear the audience interact with the actors is just beautiful,” Rodriguez said.

Seeing my peers go up on stage and do what makes them happy as I make them heard from the back of the audience is truly heartwarming.”

— Amberly Rodriguez

FEB. 18 – 27: THE CULMINATION

 

“Thank you five” echoed backstage as students bounced between dressing rooms and the costume shop before conducting their warm ups. Props were set on stage, lights were readjusted from the catwalk, and mics were taped on actors. As the house lights dimmed, theatre junior and ensemble member Carsten Kjaerulff stumbled to his feet to welcome the audience, and the cast rushed out of the wings for the opening number. The show’s beginning marked the end of Meyer Hall productions for this year.

“After four years at Dreyfoos, this is my final musical,” Reiter said. “This show means a lot to me: it’s my big role, I’ve made my best friends, and I’ve been able to be a leader and mentor throughout the process.”

For two hours, the audience watches as Seymour — a klutzy orphan with a big heart, carnivorous plant modeled after an avocado and venus fly trap, and hopeless desire to impress his coworker Audrey — navigates sudden fame through doo-wop and Motown-style songs originally created by Alan Menken in 1982.

“It’s such a fun show. It’s deep. It’s funny and it’s lighthearted at the same time, but it’s also kind of scary. It touches on every genre,” Trainor said. “I think music is so masterful, and through Audrey, I’ve been able to access a lot of myself in terms of heart and emotions.”

After the bows, the cast motions toward the audience to recognize all of the crew and management members that made the show possible backstage. “As much as I have loved helping to create this show, I certainly feel that sort of sinking feeling that this is nearly the last,”production manager and theatre senior Sunaina Singh said. “It’s been amazing being able to do tech here, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.” (Lexi Critchett)
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About the Writer
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Lexi Critchett, Production Managing Editor

Lexi Critchett is a third-year staffer and production managing editor on The Muse. Most may know her as “that girl that’s always holding a camera”...

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