By Bill Beard
Little Shop of Horrors opens Thursday, March 6, at Christian Life High School (on the north-west corner of Spring Creek and Mulford roads.
I have always felt that Christian Life has been very lucky to have had the marvelous Jodi Beach as theater-music director, because she invariably produced a truly successful show, often with really professional production values.
When she left a year ago to dedicate herself to her own career as a professional musician, both commercial (Jodi Beach Trio) and spiritual (she does lots of sacred concerts, locally and on tour), I was concerned that the high school might not be able to find someone to replace her.
Well, I have stopped worrying about that. The perfect new director has now been found!
One of the school’s most talented graduates “ever”, and one of Rockford’s top young performers, Cassie Johnson, has returned to pick up the baton, or the reins, or the gavel, or maybe sometimes even the “battle.” The battle is the universal struggle to keep the arts alive in our schools.
But in any case, believe me, Miss Johnson is up to the challenge. She really is one of the most talented young actor/singer/dancers Rockford has produced in the past several years. With a Bachelor’s Degree in theater from Chicago’s prestigious Columbia College, and lead roles in several major regional theaters, including RVC’s Starlight Summer Theatre, she brings a strong professionalism to her new position as theater and music director.
The show, Little Shop of Horrors, has remained an extremely popular musical for all groups (regional, community, college and high school) ever since its successful five-year off-Broadway run (Opened in 1982. Ran for 2209 performances until 1987). It was also made into a pseudo science fiction movie in 1986, starring Steve Martin and Rick Moranis.
It is truly funny and clever, with wonderful characters, hilarious situations and a very bizarre plot, which involves a mild mannered florist who discovers an “alien“ plant (probably of the Venus Flytrap variety). The plant speaks and requires blood to survive and grow.
Seymour (the florist) succumbs to the plant’s demands and the plant, which he has affectionately named Audrey II (after his girlfriend) indeed grows, and grows from a small potted poesy to a huge room-filling blob. Each growth phase is represented by a series of fantastic puppets. I can disclose that Seymour eventually “recognizes his sins”, but will he realize it in time? See the show to find out. You certainly won’t want to miss Audrey II, rented straight from the creators of the original Broadway puppets.
Remember, this is a spoof. The author, Howard Ashman, called it a “comedy horror rock musical,” in the style of early 1960s rock and roll, do-wop and early Motown. It “satirizes many things: science fiction, B movies, musical comedy itself, and even the Faust legend!”
It may sound like an unusual choice for Christian Life High School but, as you will find when you read the director’s notes in the program, it serves as a perfect parable to spur self-reflection in each of us. See the show! For information, call (815) 877-5749 or (815) 558-9311.
From the March 5-11, 2014 print edition