Chemistry is the name of the game at 'Little Shop'

Large-scale production goes far in small setting

Large-scale production goes far in small setting

January 10, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

It's not enough that the Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater was tasked with converting the large-scale Broadway production of "Little Shop of Horrors" to its smaller, three-sided stage.

The talking plant - the man-sized prop at the crux of the play's plot - fell off the back of a truck and was destroyed days before opening night and had to be rebuilt by the Playhouse's resident construction guy, Earl Moreland Jr., who is cast as the dentist and at least five other supporting characters. (He also is the husband of the producer and choreographer, Kelly Jenkins-Moreland.)

It would seem there's enough pre-show stress to go around, but it was mostly laughs at an informal dress rehearsal on the Tuesday before the play's opener Friday. "Little Shop" cast and crew say they are ready to show audiences that a little - a small cast, a small crew and a small stage - can go a long way.


All indications from Tuesday night's rehearsal were that the production was on the right track. The show debuts Friday night and will continue Fridays and weekends through March 8.

What keeps it all afloat?

Good chemistry, said Zane Oberholzer Jr., who is cast as the main character and also is the play's director and music director. He said it's just like what happened with "Forever Plaid," the most recent Playhouse production and one that Oberholzer directed and acted in. The play had an extended run into this month as a result of its popularity.

"That was just a case of four perfect people working together and the show really worked well. We all got along," Oberholzer said of "Forever Plaid."

"'Little Shop' has been sort of the same experience where we all get along, it's a good show for all of the actors we have," he said.

The musical is about a guy named Seymour who works at a flower shop and happens upon an unusual plant with a perky personality and strange nutrition needs. At first Seymour feeds his plant, named Audrey II, by pricking his finger. The problem is, Audrey II gets bigger, hungrier and starts craving more than blood.

"Little Shop," the stage version, debuted off-Broadway in the early 1980s. It appeared on Broadway in 2003.

The "Little Shop" cast consists mostly of actors who have previously performed at the Playhouse; some were in a previous Playhouse production of "Little Shop" in the early '90s.

Moreland performed at the Playhouse's earlier production.

"I'm a little older and I'm a little slower, but I think I have it," Moreland said. "I just have to remember it."

Kelly Kugler, of Waynesboro, Pa., who stars as Audrey, Seymour's love interest, is not new to the Playhouse, but it is the first time she's ever done the play. Newbies to both the play and the theater are two of the production's doo-wop girls, teens Christine Edmond, of Hagerstown, and Tonya Campbell, of Williamsport.

Oberholzer discovered 17-year-old Tonya at a fast-food restaurant.

"I was up there visiting a friend and she was working there, singing in the background, so I asked her to come and sing for us," Oberholzer said.

Oberholzer said accommodating the large, tech-heavy play was a bit of a challenge because the stage's dimensions are small - 25 feet by 13 feet, and has no backstage area and three of its sides are open to the audience.

"Because we're a smaller theater we don't have the fly space to bring things on and off the stage, we have to modify it to work for our space," Oberholzer said.

"For this show it just takes a lot more thinking and a lot more creativity," he said.

'Little Shop' cast

Zane Oberholzer Jr. - Seymour

Kelly Kugler - Audrey

Earl Moreland Jr. - The dentist, several minor roles

Shawn Martin - Mr. Mushnik

Miguel Rivera - Voice of Audrey II

Deana Schleigh - Doo-wop girl

Christine Edmond - Doo-wop girl

Tonya Campbell - Doo-wop girl

If you go ...

WHAT: "Little Shop of Horrors," presented by Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater

WHEN: The play debuts at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11, and will continue at 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 1 p.m. Sunday through Saturday, March 8.

WHERE: Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater, 44 N. Potomac St. Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $30 for adults; $26 for ages 62 and older and students; $17.50 for ages 12 and younger.

MORE: For tickets, call 301-739-7469. Visit for more information.

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