Little Shop of Horrors is a hit! By Jennifer Hedayat and Denise Maynard "Little Shop, Little Shop of Horrors, bop-she-bop, Little Shop of terrors, oh-ohoh-oh-oh-oh" are the lyrics that opened this delightful but campy El Segundo High School's spring musical recently. The small but mighty award-winning drama department, under the direction of Jennifer Hedayat, did not disappoint throughout the show's two weekend run. Little Shop of Horrors was a repeat success that 8 years ago brought the once non-existent drama department into the limelight of the El Segundo Community. This rock musical composed by Alan Menken and written by Howard Ashman is based on the low budget 1960's dark, twisted comedy film of the same name. The music is in the 1960's rock and roll and doo-wop style which adds to its popularity, with successful runs on Broadway, national U.S. tours and London West-End productions. Whether you caught our local rendition or not, the tongue-in- cheek plot is worth revisiting as well as the performances of some of the excellent cast. Seymour (eloquently played by Ruday Pivaral) is the clumsy employee of flower shop owner Mushnik (made artistically believeable by Kelly Rae Moody) set on Skid Row. Seymour dreams of becoming an exotic botanist with his unrequited love interest, Audrey (beautifully interpreted by newcomer to the drama dept. but not to musical theater, Kelsea Maynard ), an emotionally abused co-worker, but Mushnik finally decides to close up shop for good. In a panic, Audrey reminds Seymour of the strange and interesting plant in the front window in hopes of one last chance. Sure enough, a customer enters (Robin Richarson) with zombie like interest and from there a series of good fortune strikes the trio. This isn't happily ever after though, because behind all the fame Seymour is faced with the task of finding Audrey II (voice by Ashley Radke) its dinner. Afterall, this plant has a special diet that requires a little blood and sweat well mostly blood. What starts out with a few drops from Seymour soon begins the all out hunt for some good arteries. The important question Seymour faces throughout this morbidly funny tale is, "Are fame and success worth it?" Other memorable and purposefully campy moments worth mentioning are scenes with the sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello (smoothly played by Eric Rajaniemi) and the beautifully harmonized narration by the Urchins (Chantel Adedeji, Erika Clarke, Melissa Muncy, Elizabeth Tuihalamaka and Jasmine McGerr). This is a perfect musical production for the high school level due to its collection of attainable and hummable musical numbers. Music Director and pianist Randall Reeman beautifully guided the cast into sophisticated harmonies. Mr. Reeman and drummer Ryan Krieger did a commendable job of keeping the rapidly paced orchestrations moving with fun and clarity. Their improvisational tunes and sound effects added to the "camp and horror" hilarity of the scenes. As with any musical theater production, there are always challenges in bringing the story to life. In this show the task was working with a giant ‘man-eating’ plant puppet. Actually, that would be 3 plant puppets because throughout the story the plant grows bigger as it gets its fill of human blood. It sounds much worse than it is, which is part of the fun. Daniel Doty and Jordan Munn, the puppeteers, were real troopers for taming her! Mrs. Hedayat believes this group of kids went "over the moon" with this show. In addition to the diverse cast comprised of both beginning and advanced drama students performing on the stage, period 6 drama students focused on the technical aspects of theatre including lights, sound, set design and building, make-up and costuming. As Mrs. Hedayat shared in her director's notes, "Dullness does not exist in theatre production.” She adds, "I am convinced that kids mounting a production get the best training for the real world: collaboration, tolerance, creative ingenuity, frustration, problem-solving, budgetary constraints, self- discipline, learning to trust, total gratification from hard work, communication, selfconfidence, being vulnerable and learning about yourself are ever present opportunities during a show." This past fall, these drama students put up Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, probably the most accomplished piece thus far. The audience came away amazed and inspired by this ethereal comedy. Comments after the show included, "The actors were so believable!" "They delivered Shakespeare's words so beautifully," "I actually understood the story after struggling with it in English class," "Much better than a recent college production I saw." Hedayat added filmed sequences (an established trademark in most of her productions) of the fairies dancing in the round, and Puck transforming Nick Bottom into a donkey. The aforementioned, Randall Reeman, also a composer and professional musician, created music for scene transitions that musically represented each character. Simple, magical sets with special lighting turned the school's Little Theatre into the enchanted forest and captivated the audience with the actors' intense work on characterization and focus on storytelling. The ESHS drama department continues to be dynamic, competing in two annual theatre festivals a year, the Drama Teachers Association of Southern California (DTASC) and the Fullerton College High Schoool Theater Festival. Students meet other performers from 75-100 other high schools. They perform monologues, small and large ensemble scenes, improvisation, musical theatre and stage tech presentations for the technical aspects of theatre. Our school has brought home many trophies over the years from classical Shakespearian interpretations, radio plays, musicals and comedic 10 minute plays to name a few. It is obvious theatre students are hard working, dedicated kids, many of whom are continuing on to study acting, voice, music and other aspects of the behind the scenes and technical areas of production. Little Shop cast member Kiley Kudravy aspires to be a make-up artist after she graduates and Kelsea Maynard, who wowed the audience with her smooth and powerful singing voice as Audrey, will be joining the Young Americans in the fall. Stage manager, Emily Warlich, plans to major in technical theatre at Concordia University. Rudy Pivaral will major in acting and directing; Kelly Moody, plans to teach history and drama; Ashley Radke hopes to become a music therapist. The evidence speaks for itself as to the importance of supporting the drama and arts programs in our schools and community, leading to open doors of opportunity for our creative and talented students to pursue their dreams and ambitions in the arts. Congratulations to the El Segundo High School Drama Department on avery successful spring musical! We all look forward to your next production.
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