Friday, September 29, 2023

Plants work their terrible will in Aberdeen


ABERDEEN, Md. (April 6) — Swept away by the hype of instant fame, Seymour goes from being a skid row dropout to a national media sensation, all because he obtained a carnivorous plant and brought increased business for a rundown flower shop, where he works for a cranky Mr Mushtik, in Aberdeen High School’s production of Little Shop of Horrors.

A Venus flytrap, with fly (iStock)

The play was created before the days of social networks, but it’s difficult not to see the parallels to today’s media. The plot’s protagonist, Seymour, changes from who he really is to the star everyone in the media wants him to be.

“This inherently goes right along with the effect that social media has on our culture today,” writes director Caitlyn Soltow in the playbill. “This entity drives people to crave attention, get likes to feel appreciated, and post clever things in order for others to respond, either negatively or positively. Within this framework, though, people tend to lose a piece of what life is really about, learning through living in the moment and appreciating the little things life has to offer.”

Ms Soltow brought that message—and maybe a few others—to the stage through the characters in the play. Senior Liam Maurice, for instance, played Seymour’s character with a comfort and ease that could only be achieved on a high school stage through focused direction.

In the play, the plant demands human blood—it’s a very different kind of Venus flytrap—and Seymour provides, feeding it whenever he can, even if it means a few terrible people disappear and he has left evidence of unexplained red drops on the flower shop floor. Because the plant has been a real boon for the business, bringing lots of attention and customers to the shop, Mushtik covers up the evidence with the police.

To put the final punctuation mark on Seymour’s transformation from fame, he even feeds his girlfriend, Audrey (senior Sabrina Deitrick), to the plant after she’s killed in an accident. Her former boyfriend, a sadistic dentist, was fed to the plant earlier after he overdosed on laughing gas while relishing the idea of inflicting pain on Seymour.

Ms Deitrick brings not a big and booming voice but a versatile and innocent one to her character, who also comes from skid row and, if we’re being honest, wouldn’t have probably seen an opera—or flown on a plane, for that matter. She, too, gets caught up in Seymour’s fame, but their duets, especially “Suddenly Seymour,” accompanied by five backup singers/narrators and a five-musician rhythm section, show how nicely their voices and acting fit their characters.

The production run opens just a day after Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced the platform will require people who post political ads to verify their identities. “These steps by themselves won’t stop all people trying to game the system,” he wrote in a post. “But they will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads.” From “Maine to California,” we kept feeding these jerks.

As Ms Saltow says, “Don’t feed the plants.” We can’t stop them from eating us alive, but we don’t have to keep feeding them. Facebook is clearly trying to do that with this latest move, but the students and community members—the plant puppet at Aberdeen was made by Hob Hollow Studios, rental inquiries welcome—said it in a much more entertaining way.

In performance at Aberdeen High School in Aberdeen, Maryland, April 6–7. Music by Alan Menken, book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, puppets designed by Martin P Robinson, based on the film by Roger Corman. Rated PG-13 for some foul language, an abusive boyfriend, and some gunshots. Musical productions in high schools often include the hard work of hundreds of students, teachers, and other community members. We write about them in support of federal legislation in the Every Student Succeeds Act, which directs schools to include music and the arts as part of a “well-rounded education” for students in the US.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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