Feed me, Seymour!

Ashland High School Performing Arts, in celebration of their 10th season, are now producing their first fall musical ever &

"Little Shop of Horrors."

Oregon Cabaret Theatre presented this cult musical in 1993. James Giancarlo, then managing artistic director, considered it "one of the freshest and most original musicals to come along in a long time. The writing is so clever and tight, the music so exciting." It worked wonderfully in this intimate venue.

For AHS it is a formidable undertaking &

its theater is so much larger (it took 150 hours of work just to build Doug Ham's set) and procuring the puppets, not the cute and cuddlesome kind, but plants posing as voracious creatures that thrive on blood, has been quite a challenge for producer Betsy Bishop.

Seemingly, time and cost dictated the decision to rent the puppets. The so-called Audrey II Rental Homepage (United States &

West) listed numerous sources and prices. Betsy struck oil when she selected The Puppet Company in Oakland, Calif., impressed by the knowledge and enthusiasm of Randal Metz. One snag, though, the puppet had been reserved for a theatre in southern California until Oct. 22. Fortuitously, for AHS, the director concerned had a heart attack and had to cancel the contract. So AHS could get the goods by Oct. 3.

The next problem was how to pick it up. Eventually AHS's costume designer, Emily Erlich Inget, stepped up &

made the trip to the Oakland area and brought the puppet back to Ashland, where the school techies repaired some of the manipulative parts and reinforced some aspects of movement.

Tessa Williams, the puppeteer, immediately began manipulating the three smaller puppets, but felt a bit overwhelmed by the size of the fourth. Again, Betsy came to the rescue, persuading a new actor in her class, Troy Dement &

a tall senior with the requisite upper body strength - to take on the role of Audrey II No. 4.

Featured in the cast are: Josh Houghton (Seymour the florist), Isabella Pribyl (Audrey), Tanner Arndt (Orin the dentist), Daniel Burt (Mushnick the shop owner), Jeffrey Star in multiple roles, and Erica Perkinson (Audrey II, the Voice). The Doo-wop girls include Hali Alspach, Ally Backus, Vieve Harding, Sophie Javna, Savannah Julian, Azalea Micketti, and Molly Murphy. The stage manager is Chloe Landes-Michelli, and Rocky Garcia and Max Kiss are her assistants.

"The Little Shop of Horrors" burst on the scene in 1960 as a low budget "B" movie directed by Roger Corman, with a delightful screenplay by Charles B. Griffith. Film Critic Leonard Maltin called it "initially infamous as the 'Film Shot in Two Days,' but now considered one of Corman's best pictures." Inspired by the success of "The Rocky Horror Show" and "Grease," Howard Ashman and Alan Menken converted Corman's film into a stage musical, making certain changes in the plot and characterization.

Ashman's lyrics are witty and Menken's music is tuneful, as in "Suddenly Seymour" and "Somewhere That's Green." "Skid Row (Downtown)" is a parody of Petula Clark's big hit. The show opened on off-Broadway in 1982 and went on to chalk up 2,209 performances. It has been a success all over the world. The musical itself (which dropped the "the" in the title) was filmed in 1986, directed by Frank Oz.

The AHS production is being directed by Chris Williams; Suzanne Seiber is the choreographer, and Jennifer Schloming is the music director. As for the show itself, the fun part is that it is insanely entertaining, not an occasion for goose bumps and gasps but rather for loads of laughs.

"Little Shop of Horrors" previews in the Mountain Theatre on Halloween, Oct. 31 at 6 p.m. Thereafter it plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays November 1-10 and 17; with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. on Nov. 11 and 18. The show is recommended for children from 8 to 100. So Y'all come!

Tickets are now on sale at AHS Main Office, Paddington Station, Tree House Books on the Plaza and the Music Coop on A Street.

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