Bellarmine University’s Theatre Company plans to return to the stage with a beloved horror-comedy musical this November.
After nearly two years of performing to virtual audiences due to Covid-19 restrictions, Bellarmine University’s Theatre Company is making up for lost time with a massive live rendition of Howard Ashman’s darkly funny Little Shop of Horrors.
Bellarmine’s production of Ashman’s classic musical about fame, fortune, and the cost of both stars Bellarmine Senior Jordan Crandell as the hapless and nerdy florist Seymour Krelboyne, Bellarmine Junior Gracie Trowbridge as Krelboyne’s kindhearted love-interest Audrey, Bellarmine Senior Kevin Haas as the mean and nasty dentist Orin Scrivello, and Bellarmine Junior Zane Hall as the voice of the maniacal and hungry plant monster Audrey II.
Associate Professor of Theatre Megan Burnett serves as director for the play, while Bellarmine Senior Seth Kelly works as the production’s stage manager.
Burnett and Kelly drew inspiration from the style of America’s first African American comic creator Matt Baker while selecting the show’s visual style.
“It seemed, to me, to resonate very well with this musical,” said Burnett, “The audience will feel as if they’re seeing a comic book that is telling a creepy horror story.”
Helping the production achieve this comic-book aesthetic is freelance designer Patrick Young, who Burnett says gave the play, “a very fluid set design.”
The energetic and grand set design is complemented by the four impressive Audrey II puppets gifted to Bellarmine by Presentation Academy, a college-preparatory high school in Downtown Louisville. These four puppets represent the sequential growth stages of the play’s titular ‘horror,’ and each requires unique puppeteering methods to be operated effectively.
Bellarmine Senior Ben Seifferlein, the puppeteer for three of the four Audrey II puppets, the second can be picked up and moved by the actors on stage, has been putting himself through the wringer to bring Audrey II to life.
“It’s very physically taxing. I’ve had to bulk up a lot,” Seifferlein said. “It’s a lot more movement, not just vertically, but horizontally.”
The voice of Audrey II, Bellarmine Junior Zane Hall, has also been hard at work making this production’s version of the giant man-eating plant both memorable and unique compared to other versions of the character.
“I’m not trying to imitate any of the other versions,” Hall said, “I’m trying to keep my twist on the character. I’m not trying to sound like anyone else.”
Overseeing the music and vocal performances of the production is Bellarmine Assistant Professor of Music Mark Kano, who has helped Hall and the rest of the diverse and talented cast sing musical numbers that are a mixup of R&B, doo-wop, and Motown.
“The music is so catchy,” said Kano. “It appeals to a broad audience.”
The musical’s songs are composed by Alan Menken, the man behind the music to Disney classics such as Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and The Beast.
“There are moments that sound kind of Disney-esque,” said Kano.
The production’s performers share Kano’s excitement for the play’s music and song list.
“The R&B genre that is shown throughout the show has some outstanding musical moments,” said Crandell.
Due to Covid-19 measures, the cast and crew are expected to adhere to the same rules applied to varsity athletes, such as regular Covid testing, mask-wearing during rehearsals (masks will not be required for performers during live performances), and social distancing during rehearsals and the performance.
“It has put some constraints on us,” said Burnett. “We’re not doing the kiss because of Covid…We’ve had a couple of people who needed to miss due to quarantine.”
Bellarmine University’s production of Little Shop of Horrors will be performed to live audiences November 19-21, 7:00pm in Cralle Theatre. Tickets will cost $7 for students, seniors, and groups of five or greater, and $10 for general audience members.