The full cast of King David Players’ Little Shop of Horrors. (all photos from King David High School)
On March 16 and 17, the Rothstein Theatre was alive with music and a giant flesh-eating plant, as the King David Players presented this year’s theatre production, Little Shop of Horrors. Featuring a cast of students from every grade, the actors and musicians brought to life the dark comedy/musical. They played to full houses both nights.
Teachers Aron Rosenberg, Johnny Seguin and Anna-Mae Wiesenthal created the production, which involved 50 students, as well as other staff, parents and community supporters.
“When deciding what play to explore this year, we were looking for a musical that was light and fun and that was not too heavily based around social commentary (as is my usual inclination),” said Rosenberg in his director’s note. “I looked through a list of musicals and, remembering childhood evenings watching Little Shop of Horrors with Rick Moranis, Steve Martin and Bill Murray, I sent an e-mail to the administration ensuring it would be an appropriate choice.”
On closer look, the musical wasn’t that light.
“Three of the most problematic characters are Mushnik – the caricature of a greedy Jewish merchant – Audrey – the caricature of a helpless victim in an abusive relationship – and Orin – Audrey’s abusive boyfriend, and a caricature of a dentist with a self-acknowledged appetite for causing pain,” noted Rosenberg. “Perhaps this play’s innocuous reputation comes from an outdated attitude that treated ethnic stereotypes as playful, sexual violence as bland and dentists as inevitably painful. However, in 2016, our modern sensibilities force this play to take on a new life. The dark and irreverent humor of the play remains but, along with it, our cast has worked to uncover a respectful and critical look at the struggles of ethnic shop-owners in low-income neighborhoods, the horrors of domestic abuse and the ridiculousness of gender-inequity in relationships (not to mention the reality that dentists are no longer painful … usually).
“With all the creative commitment and hard work from our cast, crew and community, we are left with something not unlike our original goal…. The plot may not be light but the musical numbers are. And, as for social commentary and all this hullabaloo about the self-destructiveness of greed and power, you can take it or leave it. However, if you leave it, don’t be surprised when a giant human-eating plant comes a-knocking….”