Little Shop of Horrors shows power of student theater
  • Ensemble member Amala Garg, a SESP junior, sings a warning to the audience during the finale, "Don't Feed the Plants."
  • The narrators hold miniature Audrey II plants as they sing the finale.
  • Audrey II (voiced by Communication senior Rebecca Elowe) asks Seymour to feed her more blood.
  • An NBC producer (played by Communication freshman Ross Patten) pitches a gardening TV show idea to Seymour.
  • Audrey and Seymour express their love for each other.
  • Audrey answers phone calls from a flood of new flower shop customers after Audrey II becomes famous.
  • Orin inhales nitrous oxide so he can enjoy operating on Seymour.
  • Orin (played by Communication senior Eli Newell) sings about his abusive nature in "Dentist!".
  • The three narrators, Ronette, Crystal (played by Communication freshman Emma Griffone) and Chiffon (played by Communication junior Allie Woodson) listen to Orin sing.
  • Audrey (played by Bienen senior Megan Orticelli), recently beaten by her sadistic dentist boyfriend, sings "Somewhere That’s Green."
  • Ronette (played by Communication senior Brianna Dorn) talks to Seymour (played by Communication junior Alexander Schneidman) about his plant, Audrey II.
  • Mr. Mushnik (played by Bienen senior Chris Jumper) sings about his flower shop's success in "Ya Never Know."

Photos by Justin Curto / North by Northwestern

The opening number of Little Shop of Horrors had to be great.

It was opening night of the largest student-produced musical in the country, The Dolphin Show. And the stakes were even higher than a normal Dolphin Show – this year marks its 75th anniversary, what the show has marketed as the Diamond Dolphin.

But, as everyone who's been in a show before knows, things are bound to go wrong. (This former theater kid can confirm.) For Little Shop, that meant sound difficulties during the prologue. The beginning narration – by Justin Barbin, the go-to photographer for all things NU – didn't play, and when Crystal, Chiffon and Ronette started singing that famous refrain, it became clear that their mics weren't on.

So, midway through opening number "Little Shop of Horrors," production and tech crew shouted "Hold!" from the back, and everything stopped. The lights went up, the narrators left the stage and a voice told the audience that the show would resume in a few minutes after technical difficulties got sorted out. (Special props to stage and tech crew for seeming to be cool under pressure, even at opening night.)

And the wait was worth it.

When the lights came down again, the less-than-full auditorium cheered way louder than before, ready for the show to change its first impression. The narrators came out with more energy than before, leading the audience to be more excited about the show and cheer on the narrators as they belted notes in "Little Shop of Horrors." The back-and-forth between the actors and audience kept the show's energy up from prologue to finale – a testament to what student theater can do.

Little Shop of Horrors was an interesting choice for the Diamond Dolphin – a minimally cast, '60s-inspired rock musical that pokes fun at bad horror movies and features a man-eating plant as its most-known character. But it all worked extremely well, thanks to its directing, production and, most obviously, performance by the cast.

With a main cast of eight actors, no one person ended up carrying the show. Bienen senior Megan Orticelli stood out with a funny, empathetic and pitch-perfect performance as Audrey, one of the workers at the eponymous little shop. Communication senior Eli Newell was a suave jerk, and hilarious, as Audrey's sadistic dentist boyfriend, Orin. Bienen senior Chris Jumper evoked Dolphin alumnus Richard Kind (in the best possible way), among other famous dads, as shop owner Mr. Mushink. And the three narrators – Communication freshman (!) Emma Griffone as Crystal, Communication senior Brianna Dorn as Ronette and Communication junior Allie Woodson as Chiffon – put every scene and song they were a part of over the top with mischievous comments and compelling vocals.

Of course, the obvious songs stood out: "Little Shop of Horrors," "Skid Row (Downtown)" and "Dentist!" But "Somewhere That's Green," where Audrey dreams of a normal life with Seymour – the worker at the little shop who brought the man-eating plant – was one of the highest points of the show, thanks to an emotional reading by Orticelli. Any song featuring Communication senior Rebecca Elowe singing as Audrey II, the plant, was a straight-up bop, especially the duet "Feed Me" with Communication junior Alexander Schneidman as Seymour. The finale, "Don't Feed the Plants," ended the show with the same energy that started it, capping off a top-notch production. Perhaps most important, the pit orchestra held the show together with its tight performance.

In the program, there's a page to recognize Dolphin Show donors, and this year's list included Kate Shindle (Speech '99), a Dolphin alumna who's currently leading the touring production of Fun Home as Big Alison. (Side note: Eleven out of 10, would recommend.) It says something about The Dolphin Show that big-name alumni want it to keep going, and this year's show proves that passion and hard work – not just by actors and musicians, but also by talented artistic and business teams – can make student theater amazing enough to turn into a 75-year tradition. Sure, there's potential for things to go wrong, but there's also potential for a high-energy, quality production, and that's what the Diamond Dolphin got with Little Shop of Horrors.

See Little Shop of Horrors Jan. 22 at 2 p.m., Jan. 27 at 7:30 p.m. or Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at Cahn Auditorium. Tickets are $7 to $20 in advance for Northwestern students.


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