HOPATCONG, NJ – The real star of Hopatcong High School’s spring musical is hulking, green and covered in Spandex.
The musical is “Little Shop of Horrors,” possibly the least cuddly collaboration between Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who created the big Disney movies of the 1980's and 90's.
Audrey II, the flesh-eating plant is shown in four sizes, from fitting in a two-pound Maxwell House can to large enough to eat the cast.
“We spent several long nights here,” commented Michael Batche, the show’s technical director, on the work he and art teacher George Segale did on the four Audreys.
The public gets a chance to see how they did, and how the students perform, on Thursday, April 18; Friday, April 19, and Saturday, April 20 at 7 p.m., and on Sunday, April 21 at 2 p.m., in the high school auditorium.
On Thursday, after school, they were done with rehearsals, but working on an informal run-through.
“They are a very enthusiastic group,’ noted Joe Ross, director of all Hopatcong plays for the past decade.
He and the students do a straight play each fall and a musical each spring.
Ross and Batche picked the offbeat musical.
"And the music department liked it, too.” Ross said.
The pit orchestra is made up of students and professionals, conducted by Matt Testa.
Besides Audrey II, the stars are students, led by Kevin Foy as Seymour who owns the flower shop in the title. A senior, Kevin has been in seven plays since freshman year. A first this time is his having to sport a faux arm, and operate a puppet Audrey as he carries her. Wearing a Navy jacket during the run-through, Foy said he will probably enlist after graduation.
The female lead is Audrey I, played by Cassidy Sandry, a sophomore doing her fifth play. She was practicing her pratfalls, as she is eaten by Audrey II while watering her.
Mushnik is Alexander Lekhtman, a senior in his first play.
"I have done track every spring since fifth grade,” he explained. “That dissuaded me from doing plays, but I always wanted to and my senior year, I knew I had to do it at least once.”
He is headed to New York University to study music.
Unseen but important to the show is Patric McGuire who operates the largest Audrey II. He sits on a bench in the back of the plant and makes her snap and chew. The folks “eaten” by Audrey II can crawl past him out the back.
McGuire was approached by the faculty.
“The last play I was in was eighth grade,” he said, noting he was seen on stage then.
He will attend County College of Morris in the fall and then plans to attend The Art Institute either in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.
Ryan Taesler operates the third Audrey II pod.
"It’s hard work,” he said, “you need muscle.”
A freshman, he noted he auditioned before the pods were created.
Also hidden from view is Sierra Hudson, the voice of Audrey II. A senior, she has also been in seven out of eight plays. This time, she stands offstage and recites Audrey II’s dialogue. She describes the theatre group as “just like a big family.” She will attend Seton Hall in the fall, majoring in marketing and communication.
Ross admits “Little Shop” is the most technically complicated show he has put on, and it cost money to build the four pods.
“It’s not a cheap show,” he added.
The rest of the cast is: Chase Wolff as Orin Scrivella; Gregory Pellinger as the puppeteer of the first Audrey II puppet; Ashley Cole, Emily and Shaina DiNapoli, Jeanette Larosiliere, Alexis Lerner and Keely Johnson as “The Ronnettes;” Sean Higgins as SkipSnip, Michelle Reid as Mrs. Luce; Brady Dougherty as the radio interviewer’ Alexis Mott as Patricia Martin nad Cristian Delgado as Mr. Bernstein.
Other members of the crew are Amanda Anastasia, Amanda Feeley, Tina Glosser, Jen Levine, Kirsten Maegerlein, Emily Magyar, Joe Nowak, Allie Rohlff, Angela Schooner, and Andre Tan.
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