BY BILLY SUTER
A SHOW that premiered Off-Off- Broadway in 1982, then moved Off-Broadway for a five-year run before finally reaching Broadway and becoming a film by Frank Oz in 1986, is this year’s choice for the annual musical production by Durban’s Westville Boys’ High School.
It’s Little Shop of Horrors, the fun, spoof-horror rock musical featuring songs by the hit team of composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman, who wrote the music for Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.
Produced, directed and designed by Luke Holder, Westville Boys’ High’s director of performing arts, Little Shop of Horrors marks the third production this year at the school’s Roy Couzens Theatre. It will run there from May 8 to 21, with performances scheduled for 7pm nightly, with 2pm Sunday matinees.
Good news is that we have 10 double tickets to give away to any performance (except Saturdays). Information on how to enter appears at the end of this story.
Based on a low-budget 1960 black comedy of the same title – featuring Jack Nicholson in a small role – Little Shop of Horrors was a big success, a few years ago, for Durban’s KickStArt theatre company, which also toured the show.
Little surprise, then, that Holder arranged to hire the plant-props and other props and costumes from KickstArt for the school’s version of the story of an awkward florist who discovers an alien, flesh-eating plant, finds fame with it and discovers his world turning upside down.
“Special mention must be made of Steven Stead and Greg King of KickstArt, who so graciously allowed us to use their magnificent Audrey II puppets, and some costume and prop items from their award-winning 2009 production, staged at the Sneddon Theatre,” says Holder.
“Their support has ensured that an entirely new generation of young performers are able to benefit from their profound depth of knowledge and experience, and we are extremely grateful for their interest in this project.”
The show is a personal favourite of Holder’s: “The macabre and hideously corny story really appeals to my slightly wicked sense of humour, so it was a natural choice”.
He adds: “I have the privilege of engaging the services of the DarkHorse Production team, and having Jane Cross and Megan Levy on board means that technically, the production is slick and polished. Their support of the industry in Durban has made it so much easier for us to produce the volume of work that we do as a school with absolute ease.”
“My choreographer, Fiona Barnes, has worked with me for over a decade now, and we love the opportunity to sink our teeth into musicals. Little Shop has not disappointed!”
Frequently referred to as a cult musical, Little Shop of Horrors delivers as much blood and gore and almost as many bodies as Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, explains Holder.
“It is a musical that definitely focuses on the darker side of humanity, and loosely references the Faustian concern of selling your soul to the devil for fortune and fame, with all the associated consequences of those actions,” he adds.
“Bringing these concerns to life with school kids has been challenging and rewarding, as we explore the delicious descent into depravity in pursuit of our stickiest desires.”
He admits to having had great fun revisiting this classic musical theatre work, albeit that he was hindered somewhat with an attack of kidney stones and a spell in hospital.
“We have been granted unprecedented license to adapt elements of the run to accommodate the rather unique concerns that schools often have,” he explains.
“As a school show, Little Shop is often overlooked because it has such a small cast, and our mandate is always to involve as many students in the process as possible. After a six-week casting boot camp, more than 150 students finally auditioned for a show that traditionally sports a cast of 12.
“Double-casting the show, as well as increasing the number of Ronettes (the ‘Greek’ chorus that narrates most of the action through song and dance), has allowed many more young men and women to get involved, and each cast has brought a distinctive flavour to the rehearsal room.”
Live music is also a signature feature of a Westville Boys’ production, and the show’s nine-member band, with Holder in piano, plays an orchestration that has not been performed live in South Africa before.
“We are very grateful to the license-holders for allowing us these necessary and exciting liberties,” adds Holder.
This production has also coincided with a major technical renovation of the venue, and a new lighting infrastructure and sorely-needed roof repair means the functionality of the theatre has been optimised.
In Cast A, matric pupils Carrick Keating, Rachel Scrooby (St Marys) and Tyrique Latchmigadu play Seymour, Audrey and Orin respectively, and in Cast B, Cameron Parle (Grade 10), Keryn Parker (Grade 9 at Curro Hillcrest) and Murray Clark (Grade 12) play the leads. Pierre Parrott (Prade 11) is florist owner Mr Mushnik, and features in both casts.
Tickets cost R30 for adults (R10 for pupils in uniform) on Mondays, May 8 and 15, and R70 (R40 for pupils in uniform) for performances from Tuesdays to Fridays. Saturday performances are supper theatre evenings, for which tickets cost R120 each, with a maximum of eight people per table. At Sunday 2pm matiness, tickets cost R30 for adults (R10 for pupils in uniform).
For more information, or to book, email firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: Luke Holder has been involved in the Westville Boys’ High extra-curricular drama programme since 2007. He qualified as a Maths and Science teacher in 2004 from UKZN, and has worked at Kearsney College and St Benedicts School.
Professionally, Luke has performed in the Playhouse Company’s production of My Fair Lady, musically directed Themi Venturas’s critically acclaimed production of Dale Wasserman’s Man of La Mancha at the Catalina Theatre (for which he received a Durban Theatre Award nomination for Best Sound Design), and performed with the Gee Jays in their Heritage Theatre show, Boep Idols.
He also completed a sold-out run of the annual Young Performers’ Project as musical director of Footloose, at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. Holder has also written musical works for television and radio productions, and is a choral practitioner both locally and nationally.
WIN TICKETS TO LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
TEN double tickets are to be won for any performance (except Saturdays) of Little Shop of Horrors at Westville Boys’ High School.
To be in line to win a set of double tickets, simply send an email – with “WBHS LSOH” in the subject field – to email@example.com
Your mail must arrive by midnight on Wednesday, May 10. Provide your name and phone number and, if you are the first 10 emails chosen, you will be contacted as a competition winner.
You will collect the complimentary tickets in your name at the venue, on the day of your choice. Best of luck!