Audiences devour the Freshman Musical’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’


Valerie Chu/Daily Senior Staffer

The 2023 Freshman Musical, “Little Shop of Horrors,” featured man-eating plants, sadistic dentists and more.

Jacob Wendler, Copy Editor

Bienen and Weinberg freshman Raymond Faiella was 12 years old when he first sang Alan Menken’s iconic duet “Suddenly Seymour” from the 1982 musical “Little Shop of Horrors.”

On Friday, he performed the song once again, but this time as the lead role of Seymour Krelborn for more than 200 people in Harris Hall. With three performances this weekend, Faiella and about 60 other Northwestern freshmen brought “Little Shop” to life.

For more than a decade, the Freshman Musical has allowed first-year students to stage a full-scale musical, handling every aspect of production from directing to designing sets, lights and costumes.

“Little Shop of Horrors,” inspired by the 1960 film of the same name, has seen several iterations since its 1982 off-Broadway opening, including a 1986 film adaptation starring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin. A revival of the musical opened off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre in 2019 and has since featured stars like Jonathan Groff, Jeremy Jordan and former NU student Maude Apatow.

In the program’s director’s note, Communication freshman Phoebe Wrycha said she and the show’s co-producers selected “Little Shop” because its “chaotic, campy, and fun” vibes match those of the Freshman Musical.

Faiella added in addition to being a “full-circle” moment, playing the role of Seymour Krelborn encouraged him to step outside his comfort zone.

“Something that was really exciting is (the role’s) more comedic than something I would usually do, which has been really fun to play with,” Faiella said. “I usually rely on my singing and act when I have to, but this role has forced me to explore the acting world.”

Faiella and other cast members said the Freshman Musical also allowed them to meet and bond with their peers. 

Communication freshman Lily Ramras, who plays Seymour’s secret work-crush Audrey, said she appreciated the chance to get to know her peers with whom she will be spending the next four years.

Ramras added although her role is usually portrayed as ditzy and naive, she wanted to give the character more depth.

“I ended up loving getting into her character because she’s had a really hard life,” Ramras said. “So you have to find a way to tap into your own experiences and your own emotions to make that role more believable.”

The role challenged her to balance humor and earnestness, she said, as Audrey often cracks jokes about her abusive relationship with Orin Scrivello, a sadistic dentist played by Communication freshman Anthony Milas.

The musical’s plot largely centers on a man-eating sentient plant — fondly called Audrey II — that slowly consumes Seymour’s life and the people in it. While “Little Shop” has been one of the most popular musicals for high school and college theatre programs for years, creating Audrey II can prove a challenging feat for groups looking to stage the show on a limited budget. 

The plant, described by Music Theatre International as “an anthropomorphic cross between a Venus flytrap and an avocado,” generally takes the form of four progressively larger puppets voiced by an offstage actor and operated by Seymour or unseen puppeteers. 

Weinberg freshman Sarah Carley, the lead Audrey II designer for the Freshman Musical, said her team had to be creative when constructing the puppet as the instructions packet included with the script was “pretentious” and unrealistic about the materials and skills available to a low-budget production.

“I was very skeptical at the beginning because the last time I built a puppet was for my third grade book report,” Carley said. “But it’s really been an impressive intersection of all my interests: the math, the physics, the arts and crafts, and just working with so many people.”

Carley said the two most significant challenges in creating Audrey II were the limited budget and the puppets’ storage and transportation. She added that the unusual layout and dimensions of Harris Hall required the team to be creative with the puppets, including making them deconstructible so they could fit through doorways.

The largest Audrey II puppet created for the production ended up being over 4 feet tall and 7 feet deep.

Faiella added working with the puppeteers and the voice actor for Audrey II was a welcome challenge.

“Working out the timing for those scenes has been a little tricky, but once you get it down, it’s just so fun to perform,” he said. “Finding those reactions based off something that’s not a person or a voice that’s onstage has been really interesting and definitely a cool experience to maneuver.” 

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Twitter: @jacob_wendler

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