The multi-award winning theater troupe at PCHS is putting on a musical soiree next week with the opening of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
If you’re a fan of theater you’ll want to put aside a night next weekend to pop over to Plant City High School and experience the upcoming production of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Those familiar with the show know the rock musical horror comedy pulls out all the stops to create a whimsical tale unlike anything else seen on stage. A man-eating plant, meek floral assistant and soundtrack that nearly everyone knows at least one song from ensures the audience always has a screaming good time when it comes to town.
This performance has another layer to its mix as the lead cast and crew are comprised of the seniors that have grown the program into the roaring success it is today. The team has won a plethora of superiors at competitions — including scoring a superior at state just last month — and also won the prestigious national NBC R.I.S.E America grant. They’ve proven Plant City has more than just impressive sports teams and have begun to put the city on the map for its captivating theater program.
“I picked Little Shop because of its message of ‘don’t feed the plants,’ that message that Seymour is willing to give everything he has to be successful and in the end he loses himself and he loses his life for the success,” Audrey Schmidt, drama teacher, said. “It literally swallows him up. When I saw it at USF last year it reminded me just with the climate — whether its political or cultural or social — our kids are growing up in they are often pushed to sacrifice for success and to kind of lose themselves for that. To make allowances in things they know are right to be successful or to get the grade or to get the friends or the date. The show is entertaining and comical, but also very poignant and appropriate.”
Dalton Vanderford could have graduated last year after completing all of his credits early. However, his love of theater had him hang on for one more year and he’s helped transform the program into a force to be reckoned with.
His skill set is a mile long ranging from costume creation to carpentry to stage management. He’s watched as Schmidt led her students to greatness and worked tirelessly to help make each and every production, whether it be a musical like Aladdin or a straight play like Harvey, be flawless.
“Theater shows you an extreme reality and it can help you realize truths about the world we’re living in” Vanderford said. “What’s also so impressive about this production is everything from the sets to the show itself is built and brought together by students.”
Being as it’s the last play for much of the cast, Vanderford said it’s a bittersweet experience, but one they’re all excited to make the best show of their high school career.
Chris Dulje, senior, is also bracing himself for their final adieu.
“It’s a really entertaining show, very unique,” Duljie said. “This may be the biggest cast we’ve ever had… It’s definitely going to be one of the better shows we’ve done. If people want to see really what we’re doing here, this is the play to do that. We’re giving it our all and for many of us we’re saying goodbye. But we’re leaving it in some very talented hands.”
Lexi Knotts, senior, has been in the program since the first month of her freshman year. She said she’s come full circle and cannot imagine who she would be if she hadn’t stumbled into the theater program.
“I just learned who I was,” Knotts said. “Theater gave me my thing. Even when I go to college I plan to minor in theater so I can keep it as a part of my day. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without it now, which is weird because four years ago I never thought that.”
While the seniors have worked relentlessly over the past four years to revolutionize the program some of the freshmen and sophomores in the cast are earning their chops in the productions ensamble.
Shada Shalabi, freshman, said she was surprised at how welcoming the older students were to their younger classmates. They helped open doors in the performance for the new actors she said they probably wouldn’t have been able to get through on their own.
She was nervous at first, but quickly fell in love with the program and said the skills she’s learned have already begun to help her with presentations in many of her other classes.
“We’re actually really good here,” Shalabi said. “Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be famous and this will be my very first show. Any of us could be. This isn’t anything you’ve seen before. I’ve certainly never seen a play where the plants eat people.”
The community will see some familiar faces as well in the production. One hidden gem is PCHS TV productions teacher Casey Hamilton who is returning to lend a hand in the cast this year. The last time he was in the show was when he was a senior at PCHS in 2013. He said while he’s always loved the play this is one of the most impressive productions he’s ever seen.
“There is nothing like this being put out in the area,” Hamilton said. “I tell my students if you like me come out and see it and see me in it and if you don’t like me come out and see it because I’ll be eaten by a plant. It’s a win-win.”
Hamilton echoed the sentiments of the students encouraging the community to come and rally in support of the arts programs at PCHS. There is amazing, award winning work happening inside the school’s doors that most never hear about because there isn’t a cult following for the programs.
Tickets for the show are only $10 at the door and he guarantees you’ll be blown away by the talent hidden in the high school cast.
If you go
Little Shop of Horrors
When: 7 p.m. April 11-13 with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 13.
Cost: $10 at the door