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CVR produces a succulent retelling of Little Shop of Horrors

There was plenty to savour about the Chateauguay Valley Regional High School performing arts department interpretation of the deliciously campy off-Broadway classic, Little Shop of Horrors.

The spectacular lunar event of April 8 made this an obvious year to stage the darkly comedic musical, which revolves around Seymour (played by Ava Jeuris), a sweet but meek flower shop assistant, who happens upon a “strange but interesting plant” following a total eclipse. The plant causes business to boom for the struggling Skid Row flower shop owner, Mr. Mushnik (William Morin), after Seymour discovers it has a hankering for a little more than a good watering.

Seymour names the plant “Audrey II” (Odin Wania), after his co-worker and secret crush who is in a dangerous relationship with a sadistic dentist (Vincent Roberts). The human Audrey (Maurene O’Farrell) is also secretly pining for Seymour, and the pair come together following the mysterious disappearance of her dentist. At the same time, Seymour is offered fame and fortune – provided he can keep Audrey II and her unusual taste for human flesh satisfied.

“We looked through several shows, and we had done a lot of kid-oriented shows, a lot of Disney – so we decided to take a shift this year,” said music director Lynn Harper, who admitted she had a secret wish list, and Little Shop of Horrors was right on top.

The students did not need any convincing. Some were already familiar with the cult favourite, and many were introduced to the premise after the film version was screened during a Grade 9 science class a couple of years earlier.

“It is a lesser-known show, but it is one of my favourites,” said Ava Jeuris, who had always wanted to take on the role of Seymour. “Right away, I knew that’s what I wanted to audition for!” she exclaimed, noting it has made for a very exciting final year at CVR.

 

The fabulous cast of CVRs performing arts departments exuberant presentation of Little Shop of Horrors brought down the house during the plays run from May 2 4 PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

Odin Wania, who plays Audrey II, was equally thrilled. “I am very into making props, and have always wanted to make the Audrey II puppets,” she explained. Wania crafted the two earlier phases of the plant’s growth, while she and her mother, Dawna Babin, who happens to be the one of the play’s directors, created the human-size version of the flesh-eating plant.

The nature of the Valley audience meant the trio of directors, including Harper, Babin, and dance teacher and choreographer Kim Guerin, made some tweaks and adjustments to the script. This allowed the talented and tightly knit cast to play around with the different numbers and some of the play’s more macabre moments. The result was a flat-out entertaining rendition with a few special cameos from more recent pop culture that left audiences hungry for more.

“We have so many triple threats in this class,” said Guerin of the cast members, who moved from bold stage performances and elegant, high-energy dance routines, to belting out a string of original songs from the musical with some added sixties classics.

“We really look at the cast and ask, ‘how can we make them shine even more?’” said Babin, who confirms the directors will often create characters or add more depth to existing roles to showcase their students’ different talents.

“I think we did a good job. I was worried about it for a few weeks, but we pulled through at the end, so I am proud of everyone,” said Summer Johnston, who was a member of the quintet of Skid Row singers. Her comments followed the dress rehearsal, which was presented to an eager audience of elementary students on May 1.

 

Seymour Ava Jeuris and Audrey Maurene OFarrell man the phones after business picks up at the flower shop thanks to the ravenous plant Audrey II Odin Wania PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

Several of the cast members mentioned how the production helped them step out of their comfort zones, feel less anxious, and become more confident. “We are all people that would not have necessarily got together, started talking, or have been friends, really,” said Naomi Sinray, who was also a member of the quintet. “I feel the whole performing arts class has brought so many people together,” she continued.

“By this time of the year, we have become a family,” said Harper, noting how the students really took ownership of the production. “It is a very complex show,” she added. “There are so many cues, and so many costume changes, and so many swing roles,” she explained.

The play required the largest backstage crew of any CVR production to date, with eight members working to keep the show rolling on pace. The colossal main set rotated between the flower shop storefront and the inside of the shop. It took four people to move, and their steps had to be choreographed. “The tech crew was also working like demons,” she laughed.

“It really has to be student-driven, because otherwise it does not work,” Harper explained. “We dress in black, and we stand in the dark. It is not our show. The lights go on, and it is theirs.”

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