Musical Little Shop the ticket for ‘experimental year’

Little Shop of Horrors, a favourite production for high school groups, hits the stage at Shawnigan Lake School’s own Wilkinson Studio Theatre Thursday, Jan. 16.

This year’s show is directed and choreographed by Samantha McKenna-Currie, with Shannon Tyrrell as music director.

"This is absolutely a great show for a teenage cast because it’s got the fun but also the dark side which they like to play with a little bit," said Tyrrell. "It’s an experimental year in many ways: we lost a lot of Grade 12s last year. I think about 26 stellar kids graduated so this is a growing year for us. Also, it’s a chance to see what we can do here, and have a real success with this cast."

Currie and Tyrrell are both really excited about Little Shop for a variety of reasons.

First, they’re doing the show at home, on campus. Second, it’s a way smaller cast and a much different show than last year’s blockbuster, Hairspray, and third, there are lots of new faces in it.

And it’s being held in January, rather than March or April as has been the school’s previous practice.

There was a great chance to try something different in 2013/14, Currie said.

"We were looking at the year and they have a lot of breaks – reading breaks and winter

breaks and all that. We wanted to keep them engaged and offer something interesting: a production in January," she said. "I think they anticipated having to get it ready quickly and are more ready to do that. In the past, too, when the musical production is in the spring they have the whole year to get ready but now we have time to do something else after it."

She’s excited about using the Wilkinson Theatre, a versatile space that can seat a lot of people.

"We are going to be quite inventive with this space. I think it’s great to have the kids be part of the invention as well and not just have it be a case of ‘this is what we have to do’," she said.

The musical itself, Little Shop of Horrors, is one of her favourites.

"The cast are loving it. Some of the ones that have been on stage before are now trying stage management, my Backstage Ninjas as I call them. And there are some amazing singers in our cast. We have actually got quite a few first timers who have never done musical theatre before. It’s amazing to me that they haven’t because they’ve got this ear for music and such a beautiful gift."

Tyrrell said she was delighted with the choice of show.

It’s also entirely possible to make Little Shop pretty scary.

"My own children, who are 11 and nine, will be coming to this show but I almost wonder if we should be warning people. This plant eats people. It’s a pretty dark story. It’s creepy. But also, the music is so bubbly and fun and the characters are so upbeat. It’s great for the students and offers plenty of scope," she said.

For groups like the three girls, Ronette, Crystal and Chiffon, it’s vocally challenging, Tyrrell said, but they’re having a great time.

"They have three part harmony and they keep coming back into the show over and over again. It’s tricky. It also really speaks to them because they don’t want the bubbly, pop stuff all the time. They’ve gone from Hairspray last year, which was so bubbly and huge to something dark and smaller this year. It’s a neat contrast for everyone."

Tyrrell is directing the band, which will probably be behind the set.

Combining comedy and horror in a rock musical is often a successful enterprise and composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman knew what they were about when they took the idea from a low-budget black comedy film and penned this fascinating take on the tale about Seymour, a wimpy worker at a florist shop, who finds a plant that feeds on human blood and flesh.

The music echoes 1960s rock ‘n’ roll, doo-wop and even early Motown, and several of the songs have become fairly well known in their own right, including the Little Shop of Horrors, Skid Row/Downtown, Somewhere That’s Green, and Suddenly, Seymour.

Although the musical has seen considerable success on stages big and small, it was also, in 1986, made into a film starring Canadian comic Rick Moranis, plus Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, and Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops as the voice of Audrey II.

Performances of Little Shop of Horrors will be held at 7:30 p.m. nightly Jan. 16-18 with a 2 p.m. matinee scheduled for Sunday afternoon, Jan. 19.

Tickets for the evening shows are $15 for adults and $5 for children, but for the matinee these are reduced to $10 for adults and $5 for children. Reserve your tickets online at www.shawnigan.ca/tickets and get ready to enjoy this rollicking and surprisingly scary show.