“Little Shop of Horrors” Debuts This March in Vicksburg

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Director Melissa Sparks, on the left, instructs her crew of actors on how they should feature the plant that will grow to be a giant. Caleb Dziepak, Alex Smith, Emily Towns, and Seamus Hyman have the leading roles.

By Sue Moore

Musical theater teaches important lessons to Vicksburg High School students, according to Melissa Sparks, the director of “Little Shop of Horrors” opening March 11. “It’s all about the skills one learns on stage. They can apply to so much of life, giving confidence in public speaking and showing initiative in the work world. What you learn in theater, you can take anywhere,” she said.

A good example is her friend from Portage, Hannah Elless, now starring on Broadway in “Bright Star”. Elless came to Vicksburg in January to spend an hour with cast members to describe what it’s like in the business of theater. She described the challenges of performing in eight shows a week and what it is like to get cast in a play when you come from Kalamazoo, Michigan. “The kids said it was very impactful, and they are working even harder on their parts,” Sparks said.

“Little Shop of Horrors” has some challenges for the actors. Even the diction must be perfect with the cast of 40 and stage crew of 10. The plot is a sci-fi, campy story that Sparks has wanted to produce for many years. “I saw this was a play the kids would love to perform.”

There are four main characters. Sophomore Alex Smith is Seymour, the tragic hero. Senior Caleb Dziepak is Mushnik, who owns the flower shop that is the focus of the play. Sophomore Emily Towns is an especially lively Audrey who has a big voice and is pursued by Orin Scrivello, a sadistic dentist played by senior Seamus Hyman. Nathanial Chiu as Audrey II has a lead singing part but is never seen on the stage. He sings from the orchestra pit as the flowering plant grows larger through the musical.

There are six doo-wop girls who play street urchins who sing along with a Motown feel. “You can’t help but love the music,” Sparks said. “Even though the play is something of a Greek tragedy, it is a comedy that will keep the audience enthralled.”

The stage manager is Andrew Phelps, a junior, who Sparks claims is the best she has ever had in her ten years of directing plays in Vicksburg. “He’s knows how to be a leader and take the initiative good at it without being a dictator, very organized while also devoting a good deal of his time to singing in the Rotary Club Showboat and having a big speaking part in that production.”

The actors are collecting items during performances for the Kalamazoo YWCA domestic assault shelter supporting the women, like Audrey, who have been victims of domestic abuse.  Audience members are encouraged to bring any of the items listed at http://www.ywcakalamazoo.org/ site and the in-kind needs list including but not limited to: kitchen items, feminine hygiene products, women’s and children new underwear, and baby supplies.

“Little Shop of Horrors” opens at the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on March 11, 12, and 19. A Sunday matinee is set for 2 p.m. on March 20. Tickets are available at vicksburgcommunityschools.org/pac or by calling 269-321-1193.

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