October 2010

Little Shop Of Horrors - Hilton Head Prep Students Bloom In This Exotic Production

Author: Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne

When the script calls for an exotic plant with a mysterious craving for fresh blood who grows into an ill-tempered, foul-mouthed, R&B-singing carnivore who offers fame and fortune in exchange for feeding a growing appetite, finally revealing itself as an alien creature poised for global domination, you know you need a pretty strong cast of characters to pull it off.

Hilton Head Preparatory School performing arts students are up to the challenge and are taking to the stage with their interpretation of the longest-running off-Broadway show, Little Shop of Horrors.

Leading the charge is Hilton Head Prep’s performing arts director Ben Wolfe, who says the goal of his second performance at Prep is to let the students take the lead in all aspects of production. Wolfe admittedly enjoys watching his students bloom (pun intended).

When he was young, Wolfe would coordinate elaborate stage productions featuring his action figures. He would create sets, rehearse repeatedly and invite the entire family to the production. This is what we call foreshadowing. So it is no coincidence that Wolfe landed the leadership role at Prep before he even had his diploma in hand.

Wolfe grew up in the small town of Sandersville, Georgia, where he had to drive 45 minutes one-way to participate in community theatre—a commitment he made to his passion at an early age. When he headed to Armstrong Atlantic State University, he made another serious commitment: choosing theatre as his major and entering a program that produced 12 shows a year. His devotion paid off, and Wolfe was the first student to ever have full responsibility for a main stage musical at Armstrong.

As his senior year neared the end, Wolfe applied for and was offered the position at Prep and was able to hit the ground running upon graduation. At Prep, you’ll find Wolfe in the classroom (with a full teaching schedule) and backstage. With the coined phrase, “We’ll figure it out,” Wolfe is notably calm in the face of show-time chaos. “I don’t panic, I don’t get upset, and I rarely yell,” he said. This is one reason his students are so fond of him.

Senior Clara Chalk said, “I have been inspired by so many talented mentors, but Mr. Wolfe has introduced me to the organic aspects of the arts. We build our own sets and design our own show. There’s a fresh sense of pride that we find in performing a show that we constructed ourselves. I greatly appreciate the positive attitude and inspiring dedication that he has brought to our program.”

Wolfe truly puts the show in the hands of the students. And, one glance around their workshop and rehearsal space clearly shows that egos must be checked at the door. Students are working diligently to make this show come to life, and that includes sewing the massive roots and vines that are required to make the largest plant come to life.

According to Wolfe, one of the most exciting elements of student participation is the choreography by Prep senior and veteran dancer, Caroline Santorum and the return (from last year’s school production of Grease) of senior Morgan Simmons, who takes another turn as stage manager.

For the first time, a student, sophomore Will Crotty, will serve as the production’s assistant director. Wolfe said, “Will, who is an aspiring film critic, came to me last year and expressed an interest in helping with the production. I knew immediately that his knowledge of film and film history would play perfectly into this 1950s horror spoof.”

Little Shop is a quirky, dark comedy, and not a production you typically see on a high school marquee. And casting a show is always a challenge; matching talent with characters is like playing human Jenga. But Wolfe touts the standout talent that has come together to make this show work.

The show centers on down-and-out skid row floral assistant, Seymour Krelborn, played by Prep sophomore and stage veteran, Taylor Calamari, who discovers the exotic, blood-craving plant.

Cast members include Prep sophomore Alli Kenneweg who fills the role of Audrey, a sweet, vulnerable, and insecure version of a “dumb blond.” Kenneweg said, “Having the role of Audrey is really a lot of fun. She is such a sweet character, and it is fun to get to act like a dumb blond but still be so sweet and genuine.”

Junior Cameron Stewart and sophomore Billy Best fill the roles of Mr. Mushnick and Orin, respectively. Eighth grader Hannah Simpson and sophomore Helen Cardamone join Clara Chalk as a trio of teenage street urchins who provide a running commentary on the action. Chalk said, “We rely on each other for character development, line delivery, and keeping up with the three-part harmony that we sing for the entire show.”

Ensemble members include seniors Crystal Fialkowski, Kelly Ryan and Cameron Stratton, junior Adam Oppenheimer, sophomores Gracie Anderson and Kelsey Izzillo, and freshman Forest Richardson.

The dedication of this cast of characters is evidenced by the hours of time and talent they devote to each other, the show and the performing arts program.

Lights out. Curtain up.

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IF YOU GO…
When: November 4 & 6 at 7 P.M.; November 7 at 2 P.M.
Where: Hilton Head Island High School’s Visual and Performing Arts Center
Tickets: hhprep.org

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