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Hall Performing Arts Partners with UConn Puppetry Program for ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Little Shop of Horrors cast rehearses with puppets provided by the UConn puppetry department. Courtesy photo

The Hall Performing Arts Department will present the musical ‘Little Shop of Horrors’  on Dec. 15-17.

By Ronni Newton

It’s holiday shopping season, but another kind of shop will take center stage at Hall High School in West Hartford.

Hall Performing Arts Department’s production of the popular musical “Little Shop of Horrors” will be larger-than-life – literally – thanks to a special partnership arranged by Theatre Director Spencer Bazzano.

“UConn has one of the best puppetry programs in the country and they are right in our backyard,” Bazzano said. “We are using all of their amazing, hand-designed, hand-built puppets. The biggest one is 7 feet tall and takes three students to work it!”

Little Shop of Horrors cast rehearses with puppets provided by the UConn puppetry department. Courtesy photo

A representative from UConn’s puppetry program even came to Hall and worked with the students, teaching them some puppetry skills, Bazzano said.

For those not familiar with the story, Bazzano provided the following synopsis:

“Meek flower shop assistant Seymour pines for co-worker Audrey. During a total eclipse, he discovers an unusual plant he names Audrey II, which feeds only on human flesh and blood. The growing plant attracts a great deal of business for the previously struggling store. After Seymour feeds Audrey’s boyfriend, Orin, to the plant after Orin’s accidental death, he must come up with more bodies for the increasingly bloodthirsty plant.”

Griffin Keating, who plays Seymour, said one of the most interesting features about staging this show is the set design, which includes stoops and a second-floor balcony, as well as a shop that actually spins around.

“It’s very interesting – holding and operating the puppet is an odd sensation,” he added. “They aren’t real but come to life in a magical way.”

Rory Allen plays Audrey, and said she likes how the show “tackles big issues like abuse, poverty, and family dynamics in an interesting and compelling way. It was written years ago but all of the themes hold true today.”

Getting to use the puppets, she added, “makes the show feel professional and lifelike.”

Summer Neiditz portrays flower shop owner Mushnik, and said the puppets are the most interesting part of the show, adding that she has a new respect for the tech side of producing a musical.

“Sometimes you forget they’re puppets – the way they move around is amazing and they take on a life of their own.”

Noah McKenzie, the voice of “Audrey II,” praised UConn’s puppetry program. 

“They’re surprisingly easy to use,” he said. “They were built really well and become a true character in the show.”

“Little Shop of Horrors” will be performed on Thursday, Dec. 15, Friday, Dec. 16, and Saturday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. A matinee will also be held on Saturday Dec. 17 at 2 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased online here.

Little Shop of Horrors cast rehearses with puppets provided by the UConn puppetry department. Courtesy photo

Cast List

  • Seymour: Griffin Keating
  • Audrey: Rory Allen
  • Mushnik: Summer Neiditz
  • Orin (Dentist): Ben Spaeth
  • Audrey 2 (Voice): Noah McKenzie
  • Ronnettes: Emma DeMichele, Jade Beaulieu, Reilly Shagensky
  • Ensemble: Ell Zirolli – Luce; Caeli Sullivan – Bernstien; Katherine Devlin – Customer; Katherine Tsang – Snip; Jules Savo – Announcer; Ian Bernstein – Wino/Martin
  • Puppeteers: Quinn Smith, Amithi Nair, Lia Howley

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