Don't Feed the Plants

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The Elgin High School Music and Theatre Department held their production of Little Shop of Horrors Sept. 25-26, 2021.

I had never seen Little Shop of Horrors – the movie or the musical – before this production. It was entertaining. It’s classified as a horror comedy, but I felt the comedy far outweighed the horror aspect. I can’t compare it to the movie as I’ve never seen it, so I have no idea if the movie is scary or not.

Little Shop of Horrors is about the owner of a flower shop, Mr. Mushnik (William Guill), and his hapless, nerdy, employee, Seymour (Alex Rodriguez).

With music by Alan Menken and lyrics and a book by Howard Ashman, this musical was destined to be a hit. Seymour raises a plant that feeds on human blood and flesh. The music is in the style of early 1960s rock and roll, doo-wop, and early Motown. Hits include the title song, "Skid Row (Downtown),” "Somewhere That's Green,” "Suddenly, Seymour,” and “Mushnik and Son.”

Little Shop of Horrors was a great turn out,” Director Eric Bradford said. “We had a lot of the community come and participate in watching the students perform. These are really talented students.”

Eric recalled his own fond memories from this show when he was cast in Cameron University’s production of Little Shop of Horrors in 1993. Eric proved his dedication to these young actors and actresses and to the show by traveling across the United States to pick up the plant puppets the week of the show when they didn’t arrive by the specified date.

“I ended up having to travel to Tampa and do a 17 hour layover, fly into Philadelphia, take an Uber up to Norristown and then got into a Penske truck with the puppets and drove 24 hours straight just stopping for gas and bathroom to get the puppets back to Elgin so that the students would have four days to rehearse with them rather than waiting on them to be shipped and possibly miss the performances altogether.”

Since the cast hadn’t worked with the giant plant puppet that took up half the flower shop set, they had to figure out how to work around it and get out the door it was halfway blocking. I don’t know if it was supposed to add a comedic effect, but it did. I laughed every time one of the cast members had to shimmy past it to get out the door. If you haven’t seen this show before, this plant goes from a normal-sized house plant in a pot, to a giant man-eating plant by the last scene. Paige Williams did a fantastic job inside that plant puppet. I know it had to be hot and miserable in there, but she didn’t let it phase her. The voice of the plant, named Audrey II, was Roger Holder. I’ve never seen him in a show before, but he has a fantastic voice, both speaking and singing.

The show opens on Skid Row where the flower shop is located and the Bouffants – Crystal, Chiffon, and Ronnette, take you through the “Prologue (Little Shop of Horrors.)”

“A standout in the trio [the Bouffants] was Jessica Diley who kept the other two singing the right words and moving with the right movements throughout the entire show.”

The four main leads, Grace Norbury (Audrey), Alex Rodriguez (Seymour), William Guill (Mr. Mushnik), and Chandler Moncrieff (Orin Scrivello, DDS) were absolutely fantastic.

“Grace Norbury is amazing,” Eric said. “She has such a phenomenal voice and her acting skills are going to take her far.”

Norbury is a music major at Cameron University. I’ve never seen her in a production before, but I hope to see her again in the future. Bradford couldn’t have cast a better Audrey than Norbury. I enjoyed every line and every note she delivered. I decided to try to compare her to some different actresses who played this role, and she rivaled every video I watched. Her poignant duet performance of “Suddenly Seymour” with Rodriguez was just beautiful. It was one of my favorite numbers from the entire show.

Rodriguez was supposed to play Seymore in MacArthur High School’s production of Little Shop of Horrors, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19.

He said he was upset when the show was cancelled so he was excited to audition for Elgin’s production of the show. 

“For me, it was such an incredible experience getting to embody the character that I grew to love so long ago,” Rodriguez said. “It was upsetting that I lost the show to COVID. But Elgin’s production of it gave me a chance to bring back doing what I love. The biggest thing I took away that sometimes the most powerful moments aren’t in the biggest reaction, and somehow the small details. Expressing pain and torment in a way that didn’t seem over the top was difficult, however, I believe that it helped me grow as an actor and performer.”

I agree with Rodriguez. I first saw him last summer in Lion King Jr. and from then until now, I believe this is one of his best performances yet. His chemistry with Norbury made the roles of Seymour and Audrey come alive. They were great together. I look forward to seeing what Rodriguez accomplishes in the future.

“Specifically, I will tell you that I was very impressed with Alex Rodriguez,” Eric said. “Super excited that he was able to come and participate in the show.”

I also think this was William’s best role to date. He did things in this performance that I didn’t even know he could do. In the song “Mushnik and Son,” he held a note for what seemed to be an impossibly long time, much to the audience’s delight judging from the hooting and hollering during the number.

Chance Harmon, director of Lawton Community Theatre said William’s comedic timing brought the character of Mr. Mushnik to life. He also said when William held that note during “Mushnik and Son,” it “rivaled any Broadway belter.”

“Mushnik and Son” was my second favorite number of the show, following closely on the heels of “Suddenly Seymour.” Chance said it was hilarious when Rodriguez and William finished the number by dancing the tango together.

Finally, we get to Chandler Moncrieff. I think you could throw any role at this kid and he will be brilliant. If I had to pick one cast member from this show who I thought would make it on Broadway, it would be Chandler. That’s not to take away from any of the other cast members, who all did a fantastic job. But, the role of Orin Scrivello, DDS is unlike any role Chandler has done before, and he was fantastic. Utterly brilliant performance. I can’t even think of any other words to use to describe this performance. I’ve seen almost every show Chandler has done and I think this one took his acting to another level.

“A big shout out to Duncan Little Theater for letting us rent costumes and a shout out to Tom Bradford who led my stage craft class into building the set that everyone got to see,” Eric said.

Chance said he can’t wait until next summer to get these kids back in his theatre, and I completely agree with him. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

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