The Upper School fall musical, “Little Shop of Horrors,” opens Friday, Oct. 28 in Menlo’s Spieker Center for the Arts. The musical follows the story of Seymour, a florist shop worker, who raises a plant that feeds on humans. “[‘Little Shop of Horrors’] is a sci-fi that satirizes the B-rated horror films of the [1950s],” Director Steven Minning said.
Minning selected the show for its fun music and lyrics. “It’s a staple in the musical theater genre; it’s an audience favorite everywhere,” he said.
In the past, according to Minning, if two auditioners are equally suited for a role, the drama department will lean in the direction of the upperclassman. However, in this show, all three of the lead roles are being played by underclassmen. The protagonist, Seymour, is played by sophomore Clifford Palmer. Sophomore Ben Levin is the voice of Seymour’s plant, which will be a large puppet operated by two cast members. The female lead, Audrey, is portrayed by Simone Lev, a freshman, which is rare in the department..
This is Lev’s first show at Menlo. However, she is no stranger to leading roles, having played Wednesday Addams in her middle school’s production of “The Addams Family.” Lev was encouraged to audition for “Little Shop of Horrors” after she saw two Menlo productions last school year and was impressed by their caliber. “I knew that [Menlo] took their productions very seriously,” Lev said.
Before the auditions, neither Lev or Minning were expecting a freshman to be cast in one of the leading roles. “When I go into the casting process, I don’t have any preconceived expectations,” Minning said. He was impressed with Lev’s natural skill, as well as her ability to take direction. “[Lev] was open to a lot of possibilities,” Minning said. “I thought this [role] was a good fit for what [Lev] brought to the table in the auditions.”
Palmer believes having underclassmen in leading roles will ensure the future of Menlo drama. “It’s great to see so many underclassmen joining the drama program. It gives me faith that the theater program will be left in good hands,” Palmer said.
Both Palmer and Lev agree that the leads being underclassmen shifts the cast dynamic in a positive way. “It’s definitely nice having younger people in the show,” Lev said. Minning attributes the change in dynamic to the underclassmen being less stressed than juniors or seniors and more able to focus on the show without as many academic commitments. “There’s an energy that the underclassmen are bringing to this show which is contagious and exciting,” Minning said.
The cast of the show is also fairly small with only 16 people, whileast spring’s production of “Matilda” had a cast of 30. According to Lev, this allows for everyone to get to know each other better. “It’s not as cliquey as sometimes you find in a bigger cast,” Lev said.
The cast has rehearsed daily for three hours after school since the week of Sept. 12. The production began the tech process for their show on Wednesday, Oct. 18, where they added lights, sound and costumes to the already-staged show. “I always look forward to the kids seeing how [the show] all comes together,” Minning said.
Lev is looking forward to being able to share what the cast has been working on. “I haven’t been able to showcase my extracurriculars much to my friends, so I’m excited for them to see [the show],” she said.“Little Shop of Horrors” will be the first Menlo drama performance of the school year. “We’ll set a fun tone,” Minning said. “Everyone is going to be delightfully surprised.”