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Duluth East taken over by 'Shop of Horrors'

Duluth East students have spent the past seven weeks talking to carnivorous plants, singing about nitrous oxide and dancing to doo-wop tunes. It's all part of the preparation for the Duluth East Performing Arts student production of "Little Shop ...

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Seymour Krelborn, played by Noah Cornwell, is threatened with an antique drill by dentist Dr. Orin Scrivello, played by Braxton Baker in East High School's production of "Little Shop of Horrors." (Photos by Teri Cadeau)

Duluth East students have spent the past seven weeks talking to carnivorous plants, singing about nitrous oxide and dancing to doo-wop tunes.

It's all part of the preparation for the Duluth East Performing Arts student production of "Little Shop of Horrors." The plot spins around Seymour, a geeky floral assistant who comes across a new breed of plant that promises to take him and his lady crush from the slums of Skid Row, but not without a steep price.

The Budgeteer visited a practice of the the show on Oct. 21 to find out more.

Suddenly, Seymour

Noah Cornwell is playing his dream role.

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"I've loved this show ever since I was a kid," Cornwell said. "Learning the songs has been so easy because of that."

Cornwell, a junior at East, plays the lead character, amateur botanist Seymour Krelborn. Seymour is stereotypical nerd who wants people, especially his co-worker Audrey, to like him. At the beginning of the show, he works in a floral shop where he recently obtained a mysterious plant that looks like a large Venus flytrap, which he names "Audrey II."

"I like how different it is from anything else I've ever played. I get to break out my nerdy side for the very first time," Cornwell said.

Cornwell has played Marius in "Les Miserables," Link in "Hairspray," Roger in "Rent" and Danny in "Grease." Seymour, he says, is the exact opposite of those characters.

"Seymour wants to be accepted, so he does anything that it takes. That's his downfall," Cornwell said.

The only difficulty in playing the part has been learning to speak with Seymour's New York accent.

"I have a tough time getting out of it. Like when I get out of rehearsal I'm still talking like that sometimes. It gets to be a habit," Cornwell said.

From Little Rock to Duluth

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Arguably the most important piece of the show is the gigantic, bloodthirsty plant named "Audrey II." The prop is so important that director Peter Froehlingsdorf once was in a show that was cancelled due to not having the plant.

"I first auditioned for Little Shop as a freshman in college," Froehlingsdorf said. "I was given the role of Seymour. After four weeks of rehearsal, we found out that we did not have a plant. No plant, no show."

For the show at East, the director began searching for a plant he could loan right away.This task proved more difficult than expected. Froehlingsdorf searched for over a month before he found an Audrey II prop they could use, on rent from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. She last performed at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

When the show begins, we see Audrey II as a small plant, but by the second act, she's grown out of control and is a six-foot-tall, 300-pound monster that can swallow people whole.

Cornwell has enjoyed singing along with the puppet in practices.

"I think my favorite song to sing is Seymour's part in 'Feed Me,' because I get to talk to a plant. I get to be interact with a puppet, which I've never done before," Cornwell said.

A Change of Space

"Little Shop" is being staged at Ordean Middle School due to the high usage of the stage at East High School.

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"This fall was particularly unusual, with events that had booked before we had booked our fall time slot. Ordean East was very receptive to having the high school come in and use their auditorium," Froehlingsdorf said.

The students seem fairly pleased with the change of stage. Lead actor Noah Cornwell has been in several plays at East and says he likes the smaller stage.

"The stage there [at East High School] is huge. It's very wide and the house is very wide and expansive, so you really have to play to the side a lot. And when you're crossing it, you have to cross for what seems like forever because it's such a big stage," Cornwell said. The Ordean stage "is a lot more intimate and I really enjoy it."

The drama club does not plan to perform at the middle school again at the moment.

"This will not be a normal occurrence, but it has worked wonderfully. 'Little Shop of Horrors' was originally produced in a very small theater off Broadway, so the 'Little Theater,' as it is known, works just perfect for this show," Froehlingsdorf said.

The Real World Horror

Lurking beneath "Little Shop's" humor and music is a serious issue: domestic violence.

"My character is Audrey. She hasn't really had good relationships with men. She works at the flower shop with Seymour and she has an abusive boyfriend," Davis said.

Davis' character is abused by her boyfriend Dr. Orin Scrivello, a sadistic dentist. He insists she call him "doctor," yells at her and threatens physical violence towards her. Audrey's abuse is motivation for Seymour to feed Orvin to the plant.

"He's a creep, sadistic, abusive and evil. That's one thing about this show. It's a comedy and yet it deals with some serious stuff in a comedic fashion," said Braxton Baker, the junior portraying the dentist.

Froehlingsdorf is using this issue as a teachable moment for the students.

"We can use every opportunity in theater to teach the kids about the bigger world. The lead female part in this show, unfortunately, is the victim of domestic abuse, and although the play, in many ways, is a comedy, we want to acknowledge this as a serious issue," Froehlingsdorf said.

The teenage cast and crew will be collecting donations for Safe Haven women's shelter in an act of community service. Audience members are asked to bring donations of warm gloves, hats, socks, jackets for women and children and toiletries such as soap and shampoo. Used items in good condition are OK.

If you go

What: Duluth East's "Little Shop of Horrors"

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6-8, 2 p.m. Nov. 9

Where: Ordean East Little Theatre Auditorium, 2900 E. Fourth St.

Tickets: $15 for adults, $10 for students

Audience members may bring donations for Safe Haven

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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