‘Little Shop of Horrors’ review

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Normal Community’s spring musical is the dark and humorous horror rock comedy, Little Shop of Horrors, with music written by Alan Menken and lyrics written by Howard Ashman. The musical itself is based off of the cult-classic 1960 film directed by Roger Corman. The musical incorporates more than a few sexual innuendos, fun doo wop musical numbers, quite a bit of farcical humor, and plenty of Jewish stereotypes.

The two act musical follows the poor Seymour Krelborn, played by Will Koski (10), who resides on the town’s downtown called Skid Row. Krelborn works at the local florist for the irritable Mr. Mushnik, played by Malik Woods (12), alongside Audrey, played by Logan Guttschow (12), a girl Seymour loves and works with who seeks a life away from Skid Row. During one of the musical numbers, Krelborn explains how he was mysteriously given a plant. However, he doesn’t reveal his horticulture techniques that are making the plant grow rapidly. The plant (which Krelborn cleverly named Audrey II) craves blood, so Krelborn slices his fingers to feed it. Eventually, Mr. Mushnik uses the plant to attract customers to his shop and before long, Seymour Krelborn is famous for his green thumb. However, with his growing fame, comes some issues regarding Audrey II and the plant’s cravings for more blood.

The musical which was originally produced at the Orpheum Theatre in New York City, was directed and produced by Beth Topping at Normal Community. Topping, who has been directly musicals at NCHS since “Guys and Dolls” in 2000, described her experience “working with the cast, crew and the production team to develop our vision” as a “great experience.” She said that she couldn’t pick a favorite character from the musical “because all the actors bring such enthusiasm, personality, and life into their characters.”

The music, composed by Alan Menken features early 60s American rock, Doo Wop, and Motown songs like “Skid Row (Downtown)”, “Suddenly Seymour”, and “Git It”. All of the music at the musical was played live, by students. The pit showcased Brian Vasilou on guitar, Jenny Briggs and Melissa Mutters on flute, Chase Bishop and Lexi Kahwaji on single reeds, Tommy Harris on bass, Parker Meadows on drums, Alex Salazar and Kaitlin Buhler on trumpet, Andrew Johnson on piano, all conducted by JoLynn Robinson. The most entertaining song in the entire musical is “Mushnik and Son”, performed by Seymour Krelborn  (Koski) and Mr. Mushnik (Woods). The duo pulls off an engaging and humorous duet proceeding Mushnik’s adoption of Krelborn, and their success to come as father and son. Another great lyrical performance is “Suddenly Seymour” featuring Seymour Krelborn (Koski) and Audrey (Guttschow).

The two leads of the show, Will Koski (10) and Logan Guttschow (12) were impressive and captivating. Koski described the experience as “fantastic” and “amazing to work with a cast that is this talented and kind.” He explained that his biggest challenge was: “trying to make the character two dimensional and not just some dorky guy. I had a hard time trying to make that believable.”

On the other hand, Guttschow stated her challenge was playing someone so different from herself. “The life my character has lived is so hard and far from the life I have lived. It was hard for me to portray the character and still keep it lighthearted” Guttschow mentioned that she has always looked up to the leads “and this year I am one. It’s truly been an honor.”

The plant puppets are one of the highlights of the show. I was really impressed with the multitude of puppets used for Audrey II. Luginbuhl added that his eight year old son was even a little freaked out by the plant, which was larger than the performers. Alex Dwyer (12), who was the voice of Audrey II stated that his biggest challenge was voice acting. “Since I am not seen on stage, I have to put all my emotion in with my voice to convince the audience of the performance.” He concluded by encouraging students to audition for musical, saying: “It is an incredible experience where you make a lot of friends and grow close to people that you may not have met otherwise. It has been my favorite extra-curricular in my four years at NCHS.”

Ben Luginbuhl, who teaches the vocals for the show, stated that “it takes a small village to put on a show.” He continued describing the amount of work that goes into a show saying that “Beth Topping is the person who does most of the world. she organizes the schedule, coordinates all of the staff, directs the show, organizes the props, and does countless other things to make the show a success.” Luginbuhl continued to explain the work put into shows with crediting JoLynn Robinson who “helps out an immense amount by helping me [Luginbuhl] with the vocals, playing the piano, and directing the musical orchestra.” The technical aspect of the show was overseen by Sean Kerr, who is also the assistant director. In addition, many recent graduates and parent volunteers help with ushering, selling tickets and concessions, and making sure the performances run smoothly.

For his first performance in a musical, Malik Woods (12) did a fantastic job. Wood’s commented that his favorite song from the musical was “Mushnik and Son” and described his main challenge as the memorization of dances and words. In an interview, he stated that “the cast and crew and directors were great, there was so much support from everyone.”