‘Little Shop of Horrors’ debuts tonight

Published 12:33 pm Friday, May 17, 2019

There’s a mean green mother from outer space in town, and she’s bad.

Winchester residents can see Audrey II, the mutant Venus flytrap, and the rest of the cast of “Little Shop of Horrors” beginning at 7 p.m. today at the GRC Cardinal Theatre.

George Rogers Clark High School debuts “Little Shop of Horrors” tonight with shows continue throughout the weekend with a 7 p.m. Saturday showing and a 2 p.m. Sunday show.

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Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults at the door. Clark County Public Schools employees may show their CCPS employee ID at the teacher ticket station for free admission on the nights of the show.

The link to purchase tickets at regular price is grcmusic.ludus.com. Tickets will also be available at the door. For any questions, email GRC Fine Arts Coordinator Katherine Lowther at Katherine.Lowther@clark.kyschools.us.

“Little Shop of Horrors” is a rock musical about a nerdy plant shop employee named Seymour (Jalam Sutton) who discovers a mutant Venus flytrap, and the plant needs blood to survive.

Seymour winds up bargaining with the plant to get a girl he’s in love with, Audrey (Sarina McQuerry), and things become complicated.

“Little Shop of Horrors” started as an off-Broadway production before it became a movie in 1986, with which most people are familiar, musical director Kristofer Olson said.

“The show is also a takeoff on science fiction B-movies of the 1950s and 1960s, so that is the era the show is set, and a lot of the music is inspired by doo wop and rock ‘n’ roll,” Olson said. “It’s a unique, twisted, funny, inspired show.”

More than 80 students are involved in the production, including the cast, pit orchestra and tech crew. There are also several staff members involved.

“It takes a lot of energy, coordination and helping one another out,” Olson said. “You have to love musical theater and have a passion for sharing it with high schoolers to keep going.”

Students had auditions at the end of November, had the first read-through in December, and started true rehearsals the first week of January.

“There are a lot of technical marvels in this production,” Olson said. “For one, there are talking plants, so students have been involved in puppetry, there’s animation and just a variety of costume changes and lots of thought that went into the set design.

“This is the book that they would do on Broadway, including the vocal parts and orchestra book, so the kids are stretched, and they have met the challenge in spades,” Olsen said. “Many high schools hire ringers to play in the pit orchestra, but we’re proud that we have students playing the parts. Musicals are a fabulous opportunity to develop real-world experience in high school, let alone developing a great memory.”

Olson said director Katherine Lowther, who is also an English teacher, art history teacher, Fine Arts department chair, show producer and pianist, took on the mantle of director in the fall and has done a remarkable job in her first year in the position, thinking exceptionally hard about the details and holding a high standard of performance for the students.

“Any success we have is because of her,” Olson said.

Choreographer Ellie Miller has done a lot of work with the Leeds Center for the Arts, and Olson said GRC was lucky to bring her on board as the choreographer.

“She has a tremendous eye for the stage, understands theater (and theater people) thoroughly, and is just a great sounding board in putting together scenes and musical numbers,” Olson said. “She just finished up doing another production at Frederick Douglass High School, so she’s in high demand.”

Set and costume designer Stephanie Wilson and the visual art students also spent many hours (including weekends) constructing the set, painting and taking care of props.

“A lot of detail went into every aspect of what you see, which is a credit to Ms. Wilson’s vision and the way she has trained her art students,” Olson said.

Olson said the audience could expect a new take on the story as students have made great choices with their characterizations, in part taking inspiration from the iconic movie and past productions but more importantly bringing their thoughts to their roles.

“One standout scene to me is between the sadistic dentist and Seymour,” Olson said. “It’s hilarious. Our doo-wop girls group sounds fabulous, and they provide all sorts of personality. You’ll think you’re watching ‘the Supremes.’

“Seymour and Audrey share several tenders moments. Mushnik is pure comic relief in this show, and then there’s our outstanding high-energy ensemble. Everyone has owned their role. You’ll see lots of unique touches and details in our set, and the finale will be a spectacle audiences members probably haven’t seen at many other shows.”

Olson said students had taken their preparation seriously. They yearn to get harmony parts right, they put in extra practice for dances, and they exude enthusiasm for theater.

“You’ll listen to a tune like ‘Suddenly Seymour’ and be impressed you’re watching 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds sing harmony so well and with genuine emotion,” Olson said. “Audience members will see young people putting on such a conscientious performance and see that the kids today are fine.”

Overall, Olson said people should attend because “Little Shop of Horrors” is a great show.

“How many musicals exist about mutant plants, let alone set to doo-wop music?” Olson said. “It’s a funny, moving, quirky show, and people will leave feeling inspired by the work that went into it. There are so many wrong things youth can get into, and the fact that 80 teenagers are devoting themselves to an act of creation and cooperation deserves to be seen and celebrated.

“Also, towns and cities grow through acts of community. Hundreds of people converging in our theater does a lot to connect the people of Winchester.”

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email lashana.harney@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0015.

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