‘Little Shop of Horrors’ opens its doors at David Douglas High

See why the lively, fall musical-comedy play – live, and on stage in outer East Portland – has already sold out some of its performances in the DDHS Horner Performing Arts Center

In the David Douglas High School theater, in the Hazelwood neighborhood, rehearsing for the upcoming comedy musical “Little Shop of Horrors” – the bloodthirsty plant named “Audrey II” nibbles on flower shop assistant Seymour (adroitly played by Joshua Rivers), as shop co-worker Audrey (played delightfully by Emma Fleming) looks on.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Live theater has returned to David Douglas High School (DDHS), as a cast of 14 (with six understudies) and a live orchestra bring to life the musical play, “Little Shop of Horrors”. It premièred on November 12.

*Spoiler Alert* How can this play, a farce about an bumbling florist’s assistant who cultivates a plant that feasts on human blood, be family fare?

As opening night approaches, DDHS Theater Instructor Michael Givler coaches student actors.

“Many people consider this farce to be a dark comedy classic; ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is, in many ways, timely,” reflected DDHS Theater Instructor Michael Givler. “Don’t we all feel like the world has been taken over by an Alien plant?

“This year, we knew we would have a smaller group of student actors, so it was a great opportunity to do this show, which has fun parts that our cast can ‘really sink their teeth into’, so to speak,” Givler said with a sly grin.

Flower shop owner Mr. Mushnik (played by Thomas Nitz) scolds schoolgirls Chiffon, Ronnette, Crystal (sassily played by August Pair, Layne Winningham and Tuitamaga Keresoma), who retort, “We’re on a split shift; we went to school, then split!”

Century-old story line
Interestingly, this show was likely originally inspired by the 1905 H.G. Wells story, “The Flowering of the Strange Orchid”.

After that, the idea of a man-eating plant – a blood-lusting Venus flytrap – nurtured by a nerdish worker in a run-down florist shop on skid row, came into popular culture with the motion picture by the “King of B-Movies” Roger Corman which he named “Little Shop of Horrors”.

Audrey, hoping to escape her run down and depressing surroundings, soulfully sings “Somewhere That’s Green”.

In 1982, this storyline with the same name as Corman’s movie was transformed into an off-Broadway musical comedy hit.

The popularity of “Little Shop of Horrors” really soared in 1986, when Muppets-master Frank Oz directed a movie with a star-studded cast featuring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, and Steve Martin – with special appearances by Jim Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and Bill Murray.

A masochistic patient (played by Kyra Blair) looks forward to a “long, slow, painful root canal” by dentist Orin Scrivello (amusingly sinisterly played by Tyler Belgarde).

About the story
This show really is rated “All Ages” – and if you have seen the popular movie, you know it’s a far less creepy story than many kids’ TV shows or video games these days.

Through 23 clever songs and nine lively dance numbers, you’ll see Mushnik’s Flower Shop’s employee, nebbish Seymour Krelborn, try to keep his job while tending a plant that wants more and more of his blood, and trying to protect and perhaps win the affection of co-employee Audrey – all while avoiding the cops, and Audrey’s boyfriend, who is a sadistic dentist.

Can this fast-growing plant really save the flower shop?

Will Seymour do as the plant proposes: Murder people to feed it?

Might shop owner Mr. Mushnick succeed at blackmailing Seymour?

Come see the hilarious hijinks unfold during this production of “Little Shop of Horrors”.

Seymour begs the now-gigantic, ever-hungry plant to leave him alone for a while.

A fully-staged production
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone, and these kids are really amazing,” observed Givler. “Despite all that has happened, they have endured, coped, and above all, tried to help each other cope, with this situation.”

In addition to the cast, the show is run by 15 student stage technicians – including a puppeteer who operates the huge plant. The set and lighting are professional done.

You won’t see her during the show, but here’s a backstage look at Stage Technician Amelia Parish, animating the giant “Audry II” plant.

“And, our orchestra is amazing,” Givler continued. “Our 15 players are like a professional pit orchestra. That is, each of the musicians play as many as four different instruments during the show.”

Unique to this production, one of their student musicians – the percussionist – also provides the voice of the hungry plant. “Denzel Menjivar is a great percussionist and experienced actor who, for the first time in my time at DDHS, speaks and sings for the huge plant, while simultaneously playing percussion, and cueing the puppeteer!

“In all, I’m very proud of them all; these are unique and talented youth, doing an amazing job in this very unique time,” Givler said.

Reserve your seats now to enjoy “Little Shop of Horrors”, now showing in the Howard F. Horner Performing Arts Center.

“Little Shop of Horrors” tickets are going fast
The opening performance for “Little Shop of Horrors” on November 12 sold out a week in advance.

The show plays on the evenings of November 13, and November 19-20. Plus, there’s an afternoon matinee on Sunday, November 14.

TICKETS: Adults $14 | Students & Seniors $10 per person. Box Office Hours: Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 3-5:30pm on school days. For more information, or to reserve tickets online CLICK HERE, or call the Box Office at 503-261-8270.

NOTE: Social distancing and masks are required!

It’s all at the Howard F. Horner Performing Arts Center, located at 1400 SE 130th (between SE Stark and Division streets).

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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