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'Little Shop of Horrors' opens at Juneau Douglas High School

Musical production not to be confused with "Rocky Horror Picture Show"

Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2009

In time for Halloween, the Juneau Douglas High School drama department - headed by Michaela Moore, Richard Moore and Lucas Hoiland - will present the musical, "Little Shop of Horrors." Originally a 1960's film, the production was made into a musical in the early '80's, then into a not-so-successful film remake in 1986.

"'Little Shop' is a fun musical with lots of entertaining, witty music and humor," Moore said. " We knew that these students would get a kick out of doing this show."

Moore said many have confused "Little Shop of Horrors" with the racier cult classic "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," and expressed concern about inappropriate content. Both are vintage-type horror movies so it's easy to see the mix-up.

"Please do not throw food at or shout at the performers," Moore joked. "This isn't 'the Rocky Horror Picture Show.'"

Moore says there is some adult content in the script but believes it to be a suitable family show.

"The musical and the movie have different endings," she said. "Even though the play is about a man-eating plant, and she does eat four people during the course of the play, it is always done without blood, and it's tongue in cheek, which fits the style of the play extremely well. Plus, you can't help but like the plant, even though you know that it is trying to take over Seymour, the shop, and then the world."

"Little Shop of Horrors," set on skid row, is about a clumsy flower assistant named Seymour, played by freshman Aaron Abella, who cross-breeds a butterwort and Venus Flytrap cultivating a blood-thirsty plant. His love of the plant, named Audrey 2 after the girl he has a crush on, drives him to kill humans to feed it and keep it alive.

Director Moore believes Audrey 2 to be a symbol of the unbridled greed that accompanies the great American dream and the high price we are willing to pay.

"It is a cost that effects many innocent as well as guilty people," she said. "This play makes us stop and think about our lives and how we are living them."

Abella said he was very nervous during the auditions for the role of Seymour, but Moore, who said Abella is a standout when he gets on stage, said she couldn't tell. Moore said Abella is not only very talented, he's also a great kid who listens to what everyone has to say. Moore added that Abella makes Seymour likeable, which is key to the role.

Seymour's Audrey 2 was created by Roblin Gray Davis from Perseverance Theatre, who pitched in at the last minute when a vendor refused to ship to Alaska. Davis designed all four puppets needed to play the progressively growing Audrey 2.

"He is a creative wonder with putting these monsters together," Moore said.

Once the puppets were created, Emily Smith and Jasmin Evans worked together to make the plant come alive. Smith plays the puppet voice of Audrey 2 and Evans is the puppeteer. Normally the voice is played by a male voice but they thought Smith was perfect for the part.

"We thought that it (a female voice) brought a whole new level to the internal battle that Seymour wages within himself," Moore said. "It lends a level of jealously between the plant and Audrey that isn't there when the plant is the voice of a man. Smith and Evans are so well in tune that if Emily says anything over the microphone Jasmin moves the puppet's mouth and body as if she (the plant) is talking."

Another successful team was Shanae'a Moore and Zoey Wilson, both former Juneau Dance Unlimited dance students who stepped up to create the choreography for the Doo Wap girls. The girls developed a taste for choreography when they were asked to work with cast from "Jekyll and Hyde" last season; both girls were injured, at separate times, and choreographing gave them a way to still be involved with dance.

Moore and Wilson said they couldn't believe how well they worked together and how much fun they had doing choreography.

"The Doo Wap girls bring the show to a psychedelic groove," she said. "They are the modern embodiment of a Greek Chorus and sing and dance in sort of the style of Diana Ross and the Pips."

Senior Callie Cummins plays her first lead role at JDHS as Audrey. Moore said she was proud of Cummins, who made the commitment to be in the play before she was given the lead role because she really wanted to be involved.

Lucas Hoiland designed the set that captures the skid row look where the Little Shop of Horrors is located.

"This is the biggest and most detailed set Hoiland has designed for one of our shows," Moore said. "Some students came in over the summer to paint all the individual bricks."

Unable to find a pianist for the play, musical director Richard Moore had to reluctantly replace the orchestra with a musical soundtrack and a digi machine, which his wife Michaela controls from the booth.

That wasn't the only obstacle for this production: Sickness, a shorter production time and longer rehearsal schedules were some of the other challenges facing the crew but Moore says great teamwork helped them reach their goals.

Moore hopes the production will inspire discussion.

"Are we living a fruitless life of materialism, or a life full of love and compassion for our fellow man?" she said. "(In the end) the chorus begs the audience not to feed the plants of greed and materialism and power."



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