‘Little Shop of Horrors’
Bear River High School Dramatics goes back in time this fall as it presents “Little Shop of Horrors,” a musical set in the early 1960s.
It’s not the first time the school has produced a show that takes place several decades in the past.
Five years ago, audiences walked out of the theater singing songs from “Grease.” And while both shows are filled with catchy tunes, “Little Shop” definitely has a darker side. In fact, the story of Audrey and Seymour couldn’t be further in sentiment than that of Sandy and Danny.
When asked why she chose to perform this show, Director Amy Linden shared that they’ve done a host of classics, “Oklahoma!,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Hello, Dolly!,” but it is important to expose the students to different styles of musical theater.
“It’s more like ‘why haven’t we done Little Shop?’ and the answer to that is that it is such a small cast compared to the others, which allow for large numbers in the chorus,” she said.
And though this is a small-cast show, Linden considers it is a powerful show because of the music and the issues it highlights, namely Seymour giving up his morals for greed and Audrey enduring an abusive relationship because of her low self-esteem.
According to Linden, the emotional connection and love story between the two lonely souls provides a lot of wonderful stage moments for young actors, too.
“I knew our kids were ready for something deeper this year. Plus, the songs are so powerful, so catchy and fun; our lead vocalists are a perfect fit for this music,” she added.
Still, this play does contain some more mature language and situations than students have tackled recently. During her seven years directing theater at Bear River, Linden has looked to provide opportunities for student actors to grow in their performance and as people.
“The actors are teens who see stories on TV, Facebook, and Twitter posts that are very raw. I’ve been so proud of how my students have reacted to the dialogue and events in the script from the first read-through, especially their reaction to hateful words … used to verbally abuse the character of Audrey and the physical abuse she goes through. That made them so mad!” she said.
This generation realizes this show is not a cartoonish comedy like the 1986 film. They have the opportunity to make a statement that is really relevant to today’s headlines, like the Ray Rice story, according to Linden.
“I am not concerned with the community’s reaction; they are always supportive of our talented students. The raw moments are just a small part of what is a truly engaging storyline with fantastic rock music and a lot of comic moments. The lessons about greed and self-value are worthy of thought and may spur some family or classroom discussions. Hopefully parents will use their best judgment in deciding if this is a suitable play for their child,” Linden said.
And though Linden said she is confident that “Little Shop of Horrors” is an entertaining show, when the Ray Rice story returned to the headlines in September, she thought about Audrey’s abusive boyfriend. Although a caricature when viewed through the lens of this campy musical based on a “B” movie, she realized this could also be a serious teaching tool.
The character of the masochistic dentist, Orin Scrivello, was intended as a comedic villain. Yet the abuse he dishes out to Audrey is painful to watch at times. This was a chance to get people talking about the issue and provide education to students and also the community.
Linden knew the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition was the logical organization to involve; they’re the local experts. Linden was thrilled they agreed to kind of partner in this effort.
According to its mission statement, DVSAC offers resources for building healthy relationships and work with community partners to provide services for healing the effects of interpersonal violence. A variety of services are offered including a 24-hour crisis line with a trained peer counselor available 24 hours a day to offer support, crisis intervention and referral for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and their families.
Additionally, different prevention programs for teens are offered at local middle and high schools that give age-appropriate forums on healthy relationships, dating violence, date rape, and keeping safe.
With the opening of “Little Shop of Horrors” this week, which falls under Domestic Violence Awareness Month, DVSAC agreed to have information available at all the performances, and representatives Kim Leland and Nancy Zeisler will be on-hand at Friday night performances to answers questions about their services.
According to Zeisler, a program and prevention advocate, while the recent news stories of domestic abuse are upsetting and sad, it is important that this serious issue not be hidden.
She said she’s happy to have the opportunity to educate students and the community. She reiterated “The first step is awareness; then you can make change.”
Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 1, 6, 7, and 8. There is also a 2 p.m. matinee Nov. 8. All shows are at the Bear River Community Theater. Tickets are $8-$10.
Call 530-268-3700, ext. 4616, for ticket reservations.
For more about DVSAC, call 530-272-2046, visit http://www.dvsac.org/, or contact their 24-Hour Crisis Line at 530-272-3467.
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