Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Featuring a cast and crew of more than 100, plus a 12-person pit orchestra, Woodson High presents the musical, “Little Shop of Horrors.” They’ve been rehearsing since February, and Director Chris Rushing calls his actors “incredible.”
“The show is double cast because we have so much talent, and both casts are excellent,” he said. “A Broadway performer did a musical workshop with us, and he was so impressed, he asked if we were a magnet school.
“It’s a combination of their hard work and their support from school resources, especially chorus teacher Amy Moir. The music is phenomenal. It’s the first musical I fell in love with as a kid, and it’s the first time I’ve directed it. And it’s a timeless tale that’s still relevant now because it asks, ‘What are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want?’”
The curtain rises Friday, May 5, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, May 6, at 2 and 7 p.m.; Sunday, May 7, at 7 p.m.; and Friday, May 12, and Sunday, May 14, at 7 p.m. Ticket information – including for VIP seats and a meal – is at wtwdrama.org.
Meek flower-shop assistant Seymour has a crush on his co-worker, Audrey, but the store is struggling financially. Things change, however, when Seymour discovers an unusual, exotic plant that attracts new business. But fame and fortune come at a steep price, as the plant has a particular diet and a ravenous appetite that must continue to be satisfied.
“In this play, people are willing to shed blood to get what they want,” said Rushing. “And it’s one of the first showing the nerd taking a dark turn. He believes he has no option but to turn to violence. This is a play about haves and have nots – and also about the American dream gone very wrong.”
Junior Jordan Hershaft portrays Seymour. “He’s a bit shy, clumsy and generally reserved,” said Hershaft. “And at first, he doesn’t know how to show his feelings. He was an orphan, and his boss, Mr. Mushnik, took him in and hired him to work at the flower shop, but Mushnik doesn’t treat him well. Throughout the show, a series of events changes him emotionally. He has a crush on Audrey and eventually pursues her, but later realizes his confidence to do that came from the plant. And he feels overwhelmed by his success.”
Enjoying his role, Hershaft said Seymour’s personality is similar to his, and playing Seymour gives him more confidence in himself. “It’s great having a lead and portraying such an absurd situation,” he said. “My favorite song is ‘Suppertime,’ sung by the plant Seymour named Audrey II. It’s catchy and Seymour has to decide if he really wants to feed the plant to keep getting all these terrific things.”
Hershaft said this show is special because “We portray the characters differently than other productions do. People will like the costume design – especially for Audrey II – as well as all the songs. The audience will get to know us and our personalities a little by how we interpret our characters.”
Senior Noah Tajudeen also plays Seymour. “He’s timid, but caring, sympathetic and empathetic to others,” said Tajudeen. “But he’s secretly ambitious because he dreams of making it out of his hardships. Yet the way he does it may not be the safest or most ethical. I see him through the lens of a Faustian tale – not selling your soul for fame and fortune – and that’s the moral of the story. Even without a formal education, he’s talented at botany. There’s a reason the plant targets him – because he’s special.”
Tajudeen said it’s challenging to portray someone so timid, after playing the courageous, confident Sponge Bob last year. But he’s happy because “The songs are amazing and let me expand my range. At heart, I’m a vocalist, so constantly improving matters to me. I really like, ‘Just the Gas,’ sung by the dentist [Audrey’s boyfriend] and I. It furthers the plot, is funny and witty, and I sing it really quickly.”
He said audiences will enjoy the show’s “sincere emotion. And they’ll love the plant – both our Audrey IIs are so talented. After they belt out their songs, people will give them standing ovations – they’re that good.”
Portraying Audrey is senior Rachel Sper. “She’s complex,” said Sper. “She’s a truly genuine and lovely person. But she’s broken because she’s let the people attracted to her take advantage of her, leaving her feeling she’s not worthy of true love. She has lots of joy inside, but it’s often overshadowed by her past. But she has sweet intentions and is caring toward Seymour, who’s also broken.”
Sper loves her part because “Audrey has lots of layers to her, which I’ve worked to bring out. This show has many dark themes, but she brings joy and levity to it. Despite what happens to her, she still smiles and is there for Seymour.” Sper also likes singing, “Call Back in the Morning,” as Audrey. “It’s fast, with lots of back and forth while she answers different phones and talks to customers at the same time,” she said.
“It’s an iconic show that we’ve made our own,” said Sper. “Audiences will love the details we’ve put into our set, the characters’ interactions and our songs to show the story’s themes through various elements.”
Senior Diya Selvan plays Audrey II. “I’m an evil, conniving plant that takes advantage of how naïve the other characters are,” she said. “She’s smart and needs to keep being fed to live. But she preys on people’s negative aspects, like greed, and urges them to feed into those wants and desires. My costume will look like a hibiscus with an intricate headpiece. And because it’s so attractive, people don’t at first realize she can lure them in like pawns in her game.”
Selvan’s having fun portraying “this big, extravagant, confident villain and getting to act over-the-top. I have to ‘become’ the plant. And at times, when I’m onstage but not noticed by the other characters, I learned to really react and listen to what everyone else is saying. I also enjoy my soul-type songs, which aren’t always sung in high school.”
Her favorite is the finale, featuring everyone. “It’s the cautionary tale about the morality of it all, and how you shouldn’t let your greed overcome you,” she explained. “I think the audience will like that it’s not a Hollywood ending. And all the music is spectacular and highlights each character’s intentions.”
Senior Savannah Rodgerson is stage manager and helps run tech. Most productions of this show use a puppet for the plant and portray it as masculine. But, said Rodgerson, Woodson’s Audrey II is feminine and personified “to be more dramatic and heightened.”
“We’re also using LED lights to change colors quickly to reflect the mood of the action onstage,” she continued. “It’s been fun working with everybody, hearing their ideas and seeing it all come together.”