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"Little Shop" is a Big Success

"Little Shop" is a Big Success

When audience members watch a USM musical theatre performance, they are witnessing the culmination of hundreds of hours of preparation. Line memorization and delivery, set building and painting, music rehearsals, lighting adjustments, and audio tweaks all converge into one performance that will never again be replicated in exactly the same way. Such was the case when Upper School thespians presented “Little Shop of Horrors” in March, directed by Mark Edwards, Upper School drama teacher, with further assistance from Joshua Miller, theatre technical director.

Typically, in high school productions of “Little Shop of Horrors,” the actor who plays Audrey II is off-stage, speaking into a microphone. In USM’s production, Audrey II (voiced by Ethan Robledo-Perez ’24) is front and center, like a rock star. To prepare his voice for the demanding role, Robledo-Perez ditched his standard coffee with milk for tea and honey, which helped to strengthen it. For help becoming a rock star, he learned from the best. “I would watch clips of Elvis and try to emulate him,” said Robledo-Perez.

Ethan Robledo-Perez looks on as he performs the role of Audrey II.

Audrey II was voiced by Ethan Robledo-Perez '24, who took inspiration for his 'rock star' role by watching clips of Elvis Presley. 

Dr. Dain Shuler, director of bands and music technology, rewrote much of the show’s music by hand to accommodate instruments played by USM students. Joshua Miller and his theatre tech students ensured that the platform the band performed on was heavily reinforced. “It was probably studded better than most people’s homes,” Miller said, “so that the band felt safe up there.” 

Audrey II shines in a production of Little Shop of Horrors.

Emery Endres '23 starred inside the Aurdey II costume.

Being a plant puppeteer was a new experience for Emery Endres ’23, who performed as the third iteration of Audrey II. The role required him to sit still inside a dark, cramped puppet for upwards of 40 minutes until the plant was brought forward on stage, at which point the role became very physical. “It definitely gave me a lot more respect for what the actors have to do,” said Endres. “I didn’t have to speak or show my face but it was still really hard.”

The cast of Little Shop of Horrors.

Marko Gajic '23 (center), Katie Frick '23, and Jackson LaManna '23 (right) found inspiration for their roles in a variety of different ways.

For inspiration to play Mushnik, the long-running proprietor of Mushnik Florists, Jackson LaManna ’23 didn’t have to look far. “As Mushnik, I would fiddle with my glasses a lot, which I got from my grandfather because he would do the same thing. And so I thought, ‘Okay, this looks natural.’” 

When Katie Frick ’23 lost her voice in the midst of her opening-night performance as Audrey, she had to find ways to stay in character. “I couldn’t give in to my feelings of, ‘I can’t do this, this is too hard,’” she said. “It’s something that happens in the business and I needed to realize that it’s not the end of the world.”

For naturally confident Marko Gajic ’23, playing the meek and lowly Seymour was a stretch. “I’d walk around backstage hunched over, practicing acting sad and down-on-my luck,” he said. “I think it came together nicely, but I had to get into it.”

The evolution of Audrey II

The evolution of Audrey II.

Performers Win Jerry Awards

Several members of USM’s production of “The Little Shop of Horrors” earned 2022–23 Jerry Awards for their performance and contributions. The Jerry Awards, one of Wisconsin’s musical awards programs, encourages, recognizes, and honors excellence in high school musical theatre. Congratulations to:

Performer Awards

  • Outstanding Lead Performer: Marko Gajic ’23
  • Outstanding Supporting Performer: Jackson LaManna ’23
  • Outstanding Supporting Performer: Lyle Mondano ’24
  • Outstanding Supporting Performer: Ethan Robledo-Perez ’24
  • Spirit Award: Irene Zheng ’23

Production Team Awards

  • Outstanding Musical Direction: Ellen Shuler, Preschool, Middle School and Upper School music teacher; and Dr. Dain Shuler, director of bands and music technology
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