Four McAneny Theater performances of the Upper School musical, Little Shop of Horrors, left packed audiences marveling at the incredible team effort of the students and the professional-grade experience on stage and behind the scenes.
The plot wasn't really the point in this 1950's period piece-comedy/horror-sci-fi send-up; in the hands of PDS Theater Director Stan Cahill and his team, it was simply a device to showcase fabulous acting, singing, dancing, musicianship and staging.
A hearty thank you goes out to the superb faculty and staff team that worked tirelessly alongside the students, and to the indispensable parents and community friends who also supported the production! Thanks to everyone's efforts, this production was among the all-time top ticket sellers in PDS theater history!
Cahill shared his thoughts on what keeps him going throughout the grueling production schedule: "Despite the hard work, I am always energized by our passionate student performers, technicians and budding designers. Their hunger for hands-on training is inspirational. That, and the creativity of our talented teaching artist faculty, buoys me as we navigate the various school closings, weather delays, illnesses, power outages, and on and on and on."
This year's dance choreography was especially compelling and played a vital role in the production. Choreography Director Ann Robideaux shared, "I have felt so fortunate this year to have worked with a cast so full of fresh energy as well as see our seniors like Hailey, Simone, Julia and Walter grow as performers. A particular highlight for me was being inspired by Tina Turner concerts from the late '60s and early '70s. With the costumes Ms. Sugarman picked for that number ("Git it") and the energy the dancers brought, I never tired of watching it in rehearsals."
We reached out to many students in the cast and crew for their reflections on the experience. Here's what they shared:
Disha Bhowmick '21, company/dance/choral:
"Our sleep deprivation, nervous energy and random outbursts of craziness brought us together as a unit, a family. This show had a ton of moving parts, especially timing the moving shop with the choreography, and making sure everybody felt safe on the stage. These challenges also brought us together since they forced us to work as a cohesive unit. I could not be prouder to be part of this program. I truly feel like I belong; these people give me the confidence I need to be on stage. Performing keeps me on my toes in ways I could not experience anywhere else."
Walter Emann '19, Seymour:
"My best friends shoved the audition packet in my face as soon as it was available. They knew acting and singing had always been on my back burner. so I said why not! a week later, I was face to face with an opportunity to take on the lead role. So I did. Well, the show's over now, and with it goes my PDS theater experience. But I couldn't be happier about the last couple months. I've uncovered a passion of mine and opened new doors, and in the process have found myself a family like no other. I may have joined this program at the last possible moment, but I felt so energized and welcomed by my new family that it felt like I'd been there forever. Acting and singing and dancing are crazy fun, and with my PDS theater family's it's like something from another world! Moral of the story? Do what makes you really happy, 'cause you'll find yourself working with people who get really happy doing the exact same thing, and then you're all happy together, and that's when you find your niche. Your passion. Your family."
Léa Namouni '19, choreography assistant:
"Being a part of this show definitely counts as one of my best PDS experiences. I had wanted to be in this program for so long and I am so happy I joined. You will never find a family like this one, filled with such incredibly talented and diverse members, all sharing their wonderful talents to make one show possible. Working in choreography, I always witness everyone willing to put in their best work no matter their experience or energy level. It's simply the best place to be after school as it is the perfect mix of a professional and fun environment. I am so proud of everyone and wish I could stay for another show!"
Julia Parks '19, Audrey:
"This show was definitely one of my favorite high school experiences. As a senior I really got to know the underclassmen that will take the reins from us in the future. I was so proud of them and happy to work with them. I also absolutely fell in love with my character, Audrey, and adored becoming her and becoming part of the kooky wonderland world that we created as a production team."
Tharun Potluri '21, drums:
"Playing drums in Little Shop of Horrors was an eye-opening experience and my first taste of theater in the Upper School. The moment I met the cast and crew I was instantly taken in and made a part of the family. A lot of hard work and hours were put into the making of the show, but it was definitely rewarding hearing all the positivity and compliments from the audience. The cast and crew were so loving and supportive of me and of each other the entire way through the making of the show. I felt at home every time I walked on set. This was undeniably one of the highlights of my time at PDS so far."
Benjamin Soos '20, bass clarinet:
"A big challenge I overcame was re-writing the music for my instrument. The music was originally for flute and baritone saxophone, which are in a different key than what I play, the bass clarinet. I had to transpose and re-write all of it to be able to play with the other instrumentalists. It payed off in the long run and sounded great!"
Kat Lytkowski '20, assistant director:
"When I stepped up to be the Assistant Director after my past experience as an actor on the McAneny stage, I quickly had to learn how to work on the technical side of production. In a short period of time, I was expected to know how to function a Telex, form a run sheet, and communicate with the other crew members silently. It was extremely challenging and stressful to perform these tasks, but with the help and support of the cast and crew, I was able to acquire new skills that will help me in my future in performing arts. My position allowed for a clear line of communication between Stan Cahill and the actors and seamless incorporation of my critiques and corrections into their scenes. Additionally, I worked to make sure the cast was comfortable, informed, and passionate about their work and their relationship to the management team. . .Regarding this particular production, the puppet work has to be the most standout moment in PDS Theater history. The dedication that went into making Audrey II look realistic and lively spanned numerous hours. Yael, Ronnie, and Andre did absolute magic with the puppets, and I strongly feel that the show wouldn't have been such a hit without them."
Bravo, players! Go to our Flickr album for fabulous photos from the production, courtesy of Matt Pilsner!
Finally, so all of the students can take one more bow, here's the full cast and crew:
Seymour: Walter Emann '19
Audrey: Julia Parks '19
Miss Mushnik: Grace Marshall '20
Orin: Zak Zaidi '21
Audrey II (voice): Andre Williams '22; Yael Tuckman '22
With a fantastic company in crucial supporting roles: Disha Bhomick '21, Krista Caasi '20, Bruno Cucchi '21, Simone DiMatteo '19, Mackenzie ElKadi '19, Harrison Fehn '22, Kacey Fisher '22, Charlotte Haggerty '20, Daanial Haris '21, Neha Kalra '22, Ritika Kumar '21, Joe Lippman '22, Christian Mayer '22, Tayanna Miller '22, Gaby Namouni '21, Ida Perez '22, Milind Singh '22, Holly Teti '21, Hailey Young '19
Assistant Director: Kat Lytkowski '20
Stage Manager, Artwork/Merchandise: Aaron Baseman '20
Assistant Stage Manager: Dayana Ramirez '20
Assistant Set Design: Rakesh Potluri '19
And essential behind-the-scenes stage crew and musicians: Matan Blitz '21, Sophia Chaves '20, Kyra Douglass '20, Sophia Glasgold '22, Ella Jackson '21, Hope Jerris '21, Chris Klein '19, Harini Krishnan '20, Lea Namouni '19, Ava Mattson '22, Raina Pahade '20, Sanjana Paramesh '22, Kaveena Patel '19, Tharun Potluri '21, Josh Rafferty '20, Benjamin Soos '20, Jonah Soos '22, Abigail Weinstein '21