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Man-eating plant invades Denfeld High School

Autumn-Lore Eckstine checks out the inside of the giant Audrey II plant puppet. Eckstine plays the voice of Audrey II. (Submitted photo)1 / 4
This man-eating plant, Audrey II, invades Denfeld High School next weekend. (Photo submitted)2 / 4
Students and staff work together to create the set for “Little Shop of Horrors” in the Denfeld Auditorium. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)3 / 4
The cast and orchestra pit of Denfeld’s “Little Shop of Horrors” gathers for a sitzprobe, a German term used in opera and musical theater to describe a seated rehearsal where singers sing with the orchestra, focusing on integrating the two groups. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)4 / 4

Everyone knows the recipe for a great musical. A handful of good music, a helping of decent characters and a pinch of plot. But what if you add in one gigantic man-eating plant who thirsts for human blood?

Denfeld High School theatre is about to find out. For the first musical production in about four years at the high school, the theatre department has selected "Little Shop of Horrors." Will this be a recipe for success? Director Matthew Pursi hopes so.

"This is something that the students have wanted. And so far, it's paid off. We have the biggest cast, with 16 in the ensemble, that I've seen in my time back here. And our tech crew has grown to 15 members, which is great for a tech heavy show," Pursi said. "I hope it continues to pull people into the theater."

Back in the spring, Pursi gathered with a script committee to discuss possible shows. He was looking for a show with a small cast and an fairly easy set design that would appeal to both the audience and the students.

"We looked at new titles and classic titles, the time of year and especially what could we realistically do? Suddenly someone across the table, I think it was Principal Sconiers who said, 'What about Little Shop?' and we all went 'Ooh!'" Pursi said. "It got the reaction. So we went for it."

The plot spins around Seymour, a geeky floral assistant who comes across a new breed of plant that promises to take him and his lady crush from the slums of Skid Row, but not without a steep price. Denfeld senior Matt Reese said the role of Seymour is a "dream role."

"For me, I feel like I basically am Seymour, with my personality. I'm awkward like he is. I'm that quiet guy that goes along with the flow of things," Reese said.

Reese said he's loved the show since he was young. He's especially glad to play the role in his senior year.

"It's my last chance to be in a musical in high school. I've only been in one other musical and that was in my freshman year," Reese said. "I've been singing along to the songs when I'm driving around in the car to practice."

At the beginning of the show, Reese's character works in a floral shop where he recently obtained a mysterious plant that looks like a large Venus flytrap, which he names "Audrey II" in honor of his crush, Audrey, who also works at the store. Audrey is played by Duluth Playhouse veteran actress Kelly Killorin. Killorin most recently played Roxie Hart in the past summer teen intensive production of "Chicago." She's been acting in shows at the Playhouse since she was 10 years old.

"I didn't think I was going to be in a show this fall until I heard they were doing 'Little Shop' here. Then I knew I had to do it," Killorin said.

Killorin describes her character, Audrey, as a naive New Yorker. Her favorite song to sing with the role is "Suddenly Seymour" because it's "beautiful."

When the show begins, Audrey II starts out as a small plant, but by the second act, she's grown out of control and is a 6-foot-tall monster that can swallow people whole. The small version was created by a local artist. The large puppet version was rented from Prop To It, a prop shop in the Twin Cities. This monstrosity is voiced by junior Autumn-Lore Eckstine. You won't see her on stage very much, but she will be the voice behind the songs "Feed Me (Git it)" and "Suppertime."

"It's really fun to be a man-eating plant," Eckstine said. "People don't know what to expect from you, so you can be anything you want. You can be sassy or angry or crazy. Or, like I'm trying to do, all three at once."

This is Eckstine's first musical, but not her first brush with acting or horror. She played Snow White in her fourth grade play and she's acted in her father's homemade zombie movies. She also has experience singing in choir, though she's found musical theater to be an entirely different beast.

"In choir you're usually singing with your head voice and in a very set way. But with this, you can really get creative with what you're doing. You can go all out," Eckstine said.

Readers may recall that East High School recently did a production of "Little Shop" two years ago. This has led to further collaboration between the schools. Pursi and East director Peter Froehlingsdorf have shared costumes and advice.

"I think it's really important for the two schools to get along," Pursi said. "We're actually using the glitter dresses from his production in our production. He said, 'Hey, I've got these if you want them.' It's great."

If you go

What: Denfeld High School Theater's production of "Little Shop of Horrors"

Where: Denfeld High School Auditorium, 401 N. 44th Ave. West

When: 7 p.m. Nov. 3-5, matinee on Nov. 6 at 2 p.m.

Cost: $10 general admission tickets available at the door

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176
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