Feed me!: Lawrence North High School presents ‘Little Shop of Horrors’


A giant, talking, carnivorous alien plant will take center stage for Lawrence North High School’s spring musical, “Little Shop of Horrors,” set for May 5 and 6 in the school’s auditorium.

The play is a dark comedy, and Musical Director Greg Johnson said it’s been a challenging but fun show to produce. It’s also very different from last year’s musical, “Chicago.”

“Which we do on purpose,” he said. “We try to choose shows year after year that give the kids a different theatrical experience. So, if we do a (Bob) Fosse number that’s very dance heavy, we’re (then) going do something that’s a little bit more quirky.”

“Little Shop of Horrors” falls firmly into the “quirky” category. The main character is a down-on-his-luck guy who works in a struggling flower shop and pines for a co-worker who is in a relationship with a sadistic dentist. His luck temporarily changes for the better when an alien plant shows up, but the small, kind-of-cute plant then starts demanding sacrifices that get larger as the plant grows. Let’s just say things go downhill from there.

While the cast is not as large as other musicals, Johnson said it’s challenging to stage. Mostly because of all the props.

“I mean, you have to have a man-eating plant, a dentist’s chair and old dentist tools and fake blood,” he said.

And while the musical is a dark comedy, the roles have a lot of depth that students have been discovering,

“I will say it’s a great acting challenge for our kids,” Johnson said. “They’re really having to delve kind of deep to find nuance and character. It’s not just about being happy or sad. It’s finding this — like this contextual nature of duality and trying to fight against yourself.”

They have not just one but two puppeteers to play the physical role of Audrey 2 — the man-eating plant — and a third actor as the plant’s voice.

Junior C.J. Price and sophomore Lesli Soto-Estrada are the puppeteers. They switch off who will play the puppet each show.

Soto-Estrada said she has some experience with smaller hand puppets, because her mother likes to make them. But Audrey 2 gets bigger as the show progresses, and the larger versions were a brand-new experience.

“The third one, we are sitting like inside of this giant pod. And then the plant is put over our heads and on top of our legs,” she said. “And the movement comes from our arms just opening and closing. And that’s the one I had a little bit of more trouble with.”

Price has several roles in the musical. He said he was recruited to be the second puppeteer because Soto-Estrada couldn’t do all the shows.

“I was just a drunk (in the show). And then they’re like, ‘Hey, guys, does anybody else want to be the puppeteer?’ And I was like, ‘I have nothing more to do,’” he said. “And then they were like, ‘Hey, you wanna be (the voice of) God?’ And I was like, ‘OK.’”

Little Shop Of Horrors 4
Grace Rehwel plays Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Junior Grace Rehmel plays Audrey — the love interest, not the plant. She said it’s been fun getting to know her character.

“She’s very happy-happy all the time,” Rehmel said. “But she’s also really broken because she’s been beaten and abused. And throughout the show, she learns how to like, love again, and then she dies.”

Rehmel said the most challenging part about her character has been holding onto the accent, even while singing, and wearing high heels for three hours at a time.

Another actor working hard on his accent is freshman Clive Guidry, who plays Mr. Mushnik, the flower show owner who speaks with a Yiddish accent.

“He’s pretty fun, but also very angry,” he said. “It’s a task, especially with like the accent. But it’s really fun, and I’m so happy to be with this group of people.”

Sophomore Taylor Smith plays the lead role of Seymore. Ironically, he couldn’t be interviewed in person because he had just been to the dentist. In an email, he said his character has been interesting to explore.

“I love the way in which the protagonist slowly descends down a path of darkness that he can’t quite recover from,” Smith said, adding that his favorite song in the play is “Mushnik and Son.” “The choreography is too spectacular to miss.”

Assistant Director Emily Keith has been working on choreography costuming, music, set building and more. She said this is her first year teaching, and she’s only ever performed in plays before. This is her debut experience on the production side.

“It’s been really fulfilling, being on the other side of it and putting the magic together and not performing the magic,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed having my hand in all of the different production aspects that I never saw as a student and being on the other side of it. That’s really exciting.”

Keith also had her first experience using power tools, which was fun, as well.

Amanda Armstrong is the staging director. She said the students are doing a fantastic job with their complex roles and with the music.

“In the same song, you’re vying for the person to emote, and you’re emoting with them. And then you’re on this emotional high, and then you’re sunken with their sadness. And it happens within one song,” she said. “And our students are phenomenal actors. There was one rehearsal — just a rehearsal — and when they got done acting it, (Johnson and I)  both looked at each other and we had giant tears.”

Little Shop Of Horrors 1
The Audrey 2 puppet was rented for the play. (Photos by Adam Seif)


Lawrence North High School’s production of the musical “Little Shop of Horrors” will have three showings:

  • 7 p.m. May 5
  • 2 p.m. May 6
  • 7 p.m. May 6

Tickets are $5 per person for general seating, and $10 for premium seats if purchased ahead of time. For tickets purchased at the door, the cost is $12, and must be paid for in cash.

To purchase tickets online, go to lnt.ludus.com/index.php?show_id=200435982

All performances will be at the school’s auditorium. Audience members should enter through Door 15 on the west side of the building, facing Hague Road.

Organizers also will be accepting donations for Coburn Place, a transitional home for non-binary, transgender, and cisgender survivors of domestic abuse, and their children.