LITTLE Shop of Horrors is one of the most popular and widely-seen productions in theatrical history.
Much like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, people seem to have an endless appetite for it whether they’ve seen it one time, or ten times.
And it holds an allure for theatre groups as well as audiences.
“At Savannah Summer Theatre Institute we typically do productions that are more new that people have been asking for,” says director Ben Wolfe. “But we liked the challenge of doing Little Shop. It’s done a lot, and just about everyone has seen the production. We wanted to put our own spin on it.”
Among other things, their own spin involves an ambitious five-level set.
“It’s not literally five stories tall,” laughs Wolfe. “But there are five distinct levels, where cast members can surround the action and look down.”
For example, he says, “In the initial scene there are the people of the streets on Skid Row. As the show progresses, people from Seymour’s real world become sort of a conscience, looking down on the flower shop.”
While this is a production staged at a high school using all high school-age actors and crew, it’s anything but a “high school” production in terms of professionalism.
“Our goal with this program is creating professionals onstage and off,” says Wolfe. “We show them what it means to be professional—to arrive at the first rehearsal already off-book, to know all your solos, to know you talk to the costumer, how the whole team works.”
The simile with the professional Broadway-type environment even includes 8-hour rehearsal days with the same union breaks.
“We want to show them how the whole theatre world works and functions so they’re ready to step into either the college or pro environment right away,” Wolfe says.
“They may have had a lot of fun in a production at their school, but we’re telling them how it actually is going to be if they get into the field.”
The Savannah Summer Theatre Institute is part and parcel of a larger movement to more properly educate and prepare young people for careers in all aspects of theatre.
“There are a lot more regional theatres around the country, and more and more kids are going to school to get degrees in theatre,” Wolfe says.
That movement has paid off not only in great productions like Savannah Summer Theatre Institute’s, but in a much higher level of quality in community theatre across the area.
“Just look here with what groups like Collective Face are doing,” says Wolfe.
“That wasn’t possible here ten years ago. Everybody has stepped their game up.”