Sewickley theater's first full-scaled production premieres tonight


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“Feed me, Seymour!”

Those iconic words from the mouth of a giant, bloodthirsty plant will ring out for six performances in Sewickley, starting tonight with the opening of “Little Shop of Horrors,” Sewickley Area Theatre Company’s first full-scale production.

Shows are at 8 p.m. today through Saturday and June 26-28 in the Quaker Valley Middle School auditorium, 618 Harbaugh St.

Settling on “Little Shop” as its first main production was no easy decision. The theater company’s board of directors started with a list of over 200 musical productions and eventually narrowed that to shows that are “most relevant, timely and would be enjoyed by the Sewickley area,” said David Ford, president of the theater company.

“ ’Little Shop’ has long been one of my favorite shows,” he said. “It is a ‘rock musical’ that is a tongue-in-cheek, super-fun way to present some pretty penetrating themes.” Furthermore, “the show clips along without any long, tedious, difficult plot points to confuse and frustrate the audience.”

The show tells the story of Seymour Krelborn, an unfortunate floral shop assistant who raises a giant, man-eating plant that sings for its food. It was adapted for the stage in the 1980s and gained notoriety with the 1986 film adaptation starring Steve Martin and Rick Moranis.

In choosing “Little Shop,” Sewickley Area Theatre Company’s took into consideration production aspects including staging, sets, costumes, casting, budget and venue.

Mr. Ford said the production will be done on a “unit set” with few scene changes and simple costumes, aspects that work well in a space such as the middle school auditorium with its stadium-style seating.

“Since the show is set in a floral shop with scenes that occur on the street in front of the floral shop, the seating gives the audience a unique perspective, as if they were looking down into the shop itself,” he said. The newly renovated auditorium also offers new lighting and sound equipment.

Another benefit of producing “Little Shop” is the flexible casting, Mr. Ford said. The cast of the show can range from nine to 20 actors, as certain roles are frequently double cast. He said 12 actors will play 20 roles.

“When I get asked about this show, the first thing that comes to mind is the talents of this stellar cast,” he said. “Every member of the cast is talented and there are no weak links among them.”

Chosen through open auditioning, the cast offers a range of experience. Ralph Valenzi, who will play shop owner Mr. Mushnik, has 45 years of stage experience. Mr. Ford said the dedication of the performers goes beyond rehearsal.

“We recently held a series of crew days to construct the set, and just about every member of the cast came out to help build, paint and do whatever they could to assist,” he said.

Mr. Ford will be the off-stage voice of Audrey II, “the conniving, street-smart, man-eating plant who is a cross between a Venus fly trap and an avocado.” The plant will take the stage as a sizable puppet, controlled by an onstage puppeteer.

Rehearsals began in mid-April, not long after the theater company’s opening production, “A Night at the Tonys: A Musical Revue.” The goal of the opening production was to generate revenue and “test the waters” to see how the public would respond. “Both of those objectives were surpassed,” he said.

Recently, the company was granted nonprofit status, which will enable it to apply for grants and receive tax-deductible contributions from supporters and sponsors.

Tickets for “Little Shop of Horrors” are $15 for adults; $12 for students and adults older than 65; and $10 for theater company members. To order: 412-879-0355 or tickets@sewickleymusicals.org.

Shellie Petri Budzeak, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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