by Arhana Aatresh (’23) | February 3, 2023
Little Shop of Horrors, with a book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, initially seems like a frightful musical. The show follows the meek and earnest floral assistant Seymour Krelborn as he chances upon a carnivorous plant that promises him success and a relationship with his coworker crush in exchange for his blood. But behind the scenes are a cast and crew with a lot of heart.
Director Gabriella Federighi (’23) chose Little Shop of Horrors because it’s “a well-known show with music by Alan Menken. Everyone likes his work.” She also cited the unique giant puppets, the fun quality of the show, and most importantly, the small, manageable pit orchestra of five.
The cast and crew began rehearsing in November, practicing for hours every day after school. From experimentation with acting choices to innovation with choreography, their passion for their roles is evident. Shepherd Cremer (’25), who plays Seymour, has enjoyed adding an element of nerdiness to his character’s earnestness, as well as “lots of slapstick comedy.” Diego Ortuondo (’24), who plays abusive, nitrous-oxide-obsessed dentist Orvin Scrivello, explained that his favorite part of rehearsals was specifically “Italian rehearsals,” where actors run through a show without any movement and only recite lines. He fondly recalled dressing in other characters’ costumes and humorously trying out different accents. Letting loose during such run-throughs helped him portray his “already wacky” character.
Student choreographer Vera Borodyansky (’23) explained how the structure and plot of the show have enabled her to add complex layers to the dances. The show features a three-person Greek chorus, a standard literary and performing arts technique that provides necessary context to the audience; in the show, the chorus breaks the fourth wall to forewarn the audience of the horrors to come while staying in character. Borodyansky explained that when choreographing, she kept in mind that the dances must reflect the “double layering of the chorus—knowing what’s going on while coming back occasionally and acting as if they’re a part of the story.”
A new special element of the student-run musical this year—a live pit orchestra—brought a different energy to the production. Pit director Alexander Eiger (’23), who has performed in various ensembles since fifth grade, described that initiating this change was a challenge, but also a wonderful opportunity for a new type of student involvement: “Musical theater music is vastly different from any type of music you will receive in a band or orchestra. Combined with the fact that it was everybody else’s first time in a pit except for myself, I am so proud of how far they have come.” He explained that live music personalizes theatrical experiences—it can “help actors get on track and adjust tempo and rhythm” and “adds a whole new layer to what is an already amazing show.”
The show has been a valuable learning experience for all involved. Federighi “underst[ood] a lot more about what goes into casting,” specifically learning to differentiate who may be most apt for a certain role from who will best fit in with the other actors. According to vocal director Marissa Day (’23), one of the most demanding parts of the process was “finding ways to help people understand harmonies, which involved a lot of problem-solving.” Lighting designer Noah Crane (’23) described how “juggling the responsibilities of playing the plant and doing design” was a challenge.
The most rewarding aspect of the process for the cast and crew was the tight-knit community. Federighi explained that her primary focus was fostering a “positive environment where everyone feels valued“ and “support[s] each other,” which the show’s lack of an ensemble lent to. Day summarized, “Everyone has the same goal of creating a great show, and that’s what we love.”
Little Shop of Horrors is playing in the Performing Arts Center through this Saturday, February 4 at 7 P.M.; tickets can be purchased online or at the door.
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