Frantic final days of rehearsals at Downey High

DOWNEY - "This is it, guys!" bellowed drama teacher and director Lars Hansen into his megaphone. "We will be rehearsing like mad for the next two weeks!"It was just past 3 p.m. on Monday, and he was addressing his collection of seniors, juniors and sophomores who had shown up for rehearsals. Some were from the drama club, some from the dance club, and others from the art and drafting classes. They had endured and survived the open tryouts for the chance to take part in the rock musical, "Little Shop of Horrors," ostensibly the first "big-budget" musical since "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown!" was performed at Downey High a decade ago. Now they were experiencing the rigors of rehearsals - as necessary for any play's success as breathing - for what Hansen described as a "tongue-in-cheek rock musical with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek portraying the rise and fall of down-and-out florist worker Seymour Krelborn as he raises a strange plant revealed later as one originating from outer space." Hansen's description continues: "At first, the plant brings him good fortune but as the plant gets a taste for blood, things begin to get out of control. This wild, 1950s-style musical adventure combines singing, comedy, and Jim Henson-style puppetry to make a great experience for any age." "The Little Shop of Horrors" is scheduled on May 10, 11, 12, and 14 at 7 p.m. and a matinee at 2 p.m. on May 15. Prices are $10 at the door; $8 presale tickets are still available at the DHS Bookkeepers window. Heading the cast is Carlos Gamboa as a doormat Seymour, while Selena Domuz plays his love, Audrey, and Nick Mezzerani as their harsh and slavedriver boss. The rest of the cast: Jocelyn Sanchez (as Ronette). Diana Navarez (as Chiffon), Isle Rubio (as Crystal), David Diaz (as the Voice of the Plant), Mauricio Bustamante (as the Plant's Puppeteer), Crosby Lewis (as Orin the Dentist), and playing as Ensembles - Sara Ramirez, Francis Flores, David Apodaca, Allie Nava, and Vanessa Gutierrez. Some of these parts were played in various early movie versions, musical or otherwise, by the likes of Jack Nicholson, Rick Moranis and Steve Martin. Key support roles are provided by Marco Tabory (pianist), Randell Milam (bassist), Maxwell Gonzales (drummer), Patrick Solis (guitarist), and Jorge (guitarist) - all dishing out bouncy tunes. Other key contributors to preproduction include Jason Redfox, who designed and welded the larger plant pods; Vincent Appel and Advance Woodshop members, who did much of the set construction; Viv Durkee and the Art Club, who built the smaller plant puppets; choir teacher Matthew Fell who taught the music to the cast; Leslie Patterson, the dance teacher who choreographed Chiffon, Ronette, and Crystal; and Richele Fitzl, another dance teacher who choreographed a few other numbers. "Much of our costuming," said Hansen, "comes from a lot of self-reliant shopping at vintage and thrift stores to fit the early 1960s setting of the play. The puppets are constructed from welded aluminum and covered in bright fleece to capture the essence of the 1950s B-movie style that 'Little Shop of Horrors' is all about." Hansen is director of the rock musical. He is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton with a degree in theatre arts with emphasis on education. He says he's a regular performer in a comedy/improv group known as Cherry Spitz Comedy ( performing in venues mainly in the Orange County and Long Beach area. Hansen says he has always strived at Downey High to "take on a variety of theatre styles to give drama students a well-rounded education." Moreover, he says, "I try to teach class as if we are an actual theatre company where students learn how to make both acting and technical deadlines for opening night." "This is the big push!" he yelled on this Monday afternoon. "We will rest the Monday prior to opening." With that, he slumped in a back seat, urging his charges to focus, act as if there were already a live audience before them, and give it their all. Something tells me the people who'll buy tickets for this musical (by the way, funds raised will benefit the school's drama department) will be in for some hilarious good fun!

********** Published: April 28, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 2