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March 18, 2011 - 7:17pm

Le Roy students to perform 'Little Shop of Horrors' this weekend

Lights were dimming for the beginning of dress rehearsal when I took this picture -- it's of the poster for Le Roy Jr./Sr. High School's 2011 musical production, "Little Shop of Horrors."

Based on the Broadway rock musical by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, "Little Shop" is the story of a shy, nervous store clerk who dreams of finding a way out of the lousy job and circumstances he's stuck in, a young girl with low self-worth and an abusive boyfriend, and a plant that talks, sings and eats people.

This is the latest performance in a district known for its high standards for school musicals. Le Roy has been selected as one of the top 100 communities for music education in the country on multiple occasions, according to Bradley Meholick, director of music for the district.

He attributes this honor to the high level of dedication on the part of students, staff, administrators and parents, all working together in support of music in the schools.

Directed by Batavia High School graduate Jackie McLean, who teaches general music and chorus in the Le Roy schools, "Little Shop" stars students in grades nine through 12, with seventh- through 12th-graders in the crew and in the orchestra (aka "the pit").

Meholick, who is also the orchestra director for the show, describes it as witty and having a "soul feel to it (as far as the music goes)."

"The music is '50's style, but in this version it's freshened up a bit," he said. "The general style resembles '50's doo-wop, but there's a little bit of everything -- even some rock and R&B."

Senior Stephen Rudman, who plays Seymour, says this is a "real upbeat, great show."

"It has plenty of fun interaction between the characters that people of all ages will love," he said. "And the plants are just great."

The "plants" he referred to are part of a unique and innovative feature of this performance. Four puppets will be used to portray Seymour's man-eating plant, which grows with each person it eats. Meholick said that the puppets being used are of the same make and type as those used in the original Broadway performance.

The first and smallest of the "plant puppets" is pictured below. In the first picture, Seymour (Rudman) begs it to grow so that he can finally attract customers to the store in which he works; in the next two photos, the plant sprouts up and opens its mouth, in that order.

All four puppets are operated by puppeteer Kaleb Miller, a student at Le Roy Jr./Sr. High whom McLean describes as "very talented."

"We always try to give the audience something big to look forward to," Meholick said. "A couple years ago we did 'Beauty and the Beast' (which had scenes where the characters flew), and we hired a company to come in and fly the actors around the stage. Last year we did 'Curtains,' and we actually had one of the leads from the Broadway performance come and work with the kids."

Not only does "Little Shop" have yet another "something big" to give to its audience, it also presents some unique challenges and opportunities to the actors -- perhaps especially to Jake Bortle, who provides the voice of the plant.

Bortle, a senior, has been in Le Roy Jr./Sr. High musicals since seventh grade, and this is the first time he has done something like this.

"It's a complete change for me as an actor," Bortle said. "It's been a challenge having to act without using my body and to coordinate what I'm saying with what Kaleb is doing. But we work well together." 

In spite of the challenges, these young actors have been able to deliver what Meholick called "the cleanest performance to date."

"The kids have been prepared earlier than ever before, and they've been very motivated. And I think the result is going to be one of our finest productions."

McLean, who has been heavily involved in school and community theater for years, agreed totally with this assessment.

"The kids are awesome," she said. "With two weeks to develop their characters, they've been very professional -- more so than most young people with whom I've worked in the past. It's phenomenal."

"I'm hoping people in the audience forget it's kids putting on this show once it's over," Meholick said.

Senior Brogan O'Halloran, student conductor of the show's orchestra, echoed this sentiment.

"I think the community will be proud of its students and the hard work and talent they show," she said. "We're happy to be part of this musical."

Here are a couple more photos of the actors on stage:

PICS FROM THE PIT

Showtimes for "Little Shop" are tonight at 7:30 p.m., and tomorrow (March 19) at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. All performances are in the high school auditorium, at 9300 South St. Road in Le Roy. Tickets are $10 (flat fee) at the door and $8 presale.

For more information on tickets, click here.

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