The RFA Lakeside Theater hosted the RLRS Drama Club’s rendition of Little Shop of Horrors for four performances over three days. Mrs. Erin Smith, director and visionary, has mined the extraordinary talents of the middle school and high school students once again to produce another example of what dedication and determination can ultimately create.

The Audrey II Crew: (Back, L to R — Jimmy Hathaway, Alex Hathaway, Brittany Weth erill, Jake Farmer, Heidi Bennett; front — Connor Irvine, Fletcher DellaValle)

When Covid-19 reared its viral head and caused the show, originally scheduled for the weekend before Thanksgiving, to be postponed, the cast and crew were sent into a limbo, unsure if the opportunity to perform before a live audience would ever occur. Thank goodness it did. The cast was responsible for keeping their roles fresh in their minds for another two months until the Janice Adler set was resurrected, the Wendy Caisse props were reinstated, the Justin Orazi lights reignited, the Charyssa Farris costumes redressed, and an audience paid and placed into the theater seats.

Little Shop is a wild ride of dark humor mixed with a deep exploration of human nature as heard through the bouncy music of the Howard Ashman lyrics and Alan Menken music, sounding the way bee-hive hair-dos look. The Doo-Wop Crew, Lily Lavallee, Angelica Chavaree-Woodward, Averie Flewelling, and Tori White, serve as the Greek tragedy chorus and weave the scenes together. They vacillate between guardian angels and pugilistic supporters, narrating the story through song and a gritty attitude. That’s how it’s done down on Skid Row.

Queen of 88s: Sue Downes-Borko

Sue Downes-Borko’s piano sounds like an entire orchestra, joyously plinking one second and then lowering the boom the very next. The Pit Singers, Anne Crump, Pam Ellis, Erin Smith, and Jeanie Brown provide vocal muscle from the heavens. This is the sort of music you sing all the way home after the show.

Erin Smith has been producing and directing RLRS shows for 16 years. Unable to put on a show last year, she wanted this year to be spectacular. The cast was destined to be a smaller ensemble, so she arrived at a show she has performed in twice herself, both times as Audrey. She is beyond proud of her kids for their fortitude and grace under duress. Their willingness to step up over and over again beyond the normal expectations has been inspiring. “They’ve been thrown one curveball after another and have persevered,” she said when opening the show. And then Erin went on to speak glowingly and with loving admiration for her two seniors, Lily Lavalle and Ella Shaffer.

This is Ella Shaffer’s final bow on the RLRS stage. There are times when you can see that someone has that something special, and Ella, without question, has it in spades. Her voice is complex in its delivery, steeped in a depth of understanding for what her character, Audrey, the hapless punching bag for her demented dentist boyfriend, experiences as she seeks rescue from Skid Row. Ella’s comic timing makes your laughter uncomfortable because it comes at the expense of an abused woman. And when Audrey discovers her freedom after the “mysterious disappearance” of Dr. Orin Scrivello, DDS, you hope that she might finally live “somewhere that’s green.”

Alas, the hard-luck Seymour Krelborn, played by junior Daxxtyn Williams, comes up short. Daxxtyn plays Seymour with ease, allowing him to grow within the newfound role as a success story. You can sense Seymour’s torment as he wrestles with the dilemma: Should he keep feeding Audrey II, a leafy Mephistopheles, fresh humans, in order to retain his success and Audrey’s heart, or should he prune Audrey II to her roots and move to the “tract house” with Audrey and live happily ever after as Father Knows Best and Donna Reed? Daxxtyn’s performance soars and we fly along with him. As long as he is on the stage we’ll be in the audience.

The All-the-Way Hathaways (L. to R.) James, Troy, Alexander, and Austin.

Austin Hathaway is hilarious as Mr. Mushnik. Austin captures the hardscrabble essence of the elderly Mr. Mushnik so well you have to question where Austin could have found the inspiration for the role. His father, Dave, was overheard in the audience, as Mr. Mushnik was stomping around the stage in a rage, saying, “I think that’s me he’s doing.”

And then there’s Tori White. Tori provides the voice of the murderous plant, plays Daryl on the Doo-Wop crew, and also Dr. Orin Scrivello for three of the four performances. Liz Robare plays the dentist on the night of the last performance, which will be after this piece is written. Tori’s voice gives Audrey II an evil presence, as puppeteer, Adam Crump, gives Audrey II a wicked shimmy and shake. Tori plays the dentist with a sadistic delight that when he finally laughs himself into a deadly delirium the audience giggles with a sense of satisfaction. R.I.P., Dr. Orin Scrivello, DDS.

The backstage crew kept the machinery running with Stage Manager Brittany Wetherill, Class of ‘09, at the helm; Heidi Elliot Bassett, ‘13; Jake Farmer, ‘16; Fletcher DellaValle, ‘18; Connor Irvine, ‘21; Jimmy Hathaway, ‘23; and Alex Hathaway, ‘26. Brittany also co-directed. She is easily becoming indispensable to Mrs. Smith.

A thousand thanks to the Rangeley Friends of the Arts for constantly honoring their mission and fostering the arts for all the students at RLRS; thanks especially to Val Zapolsky, Millie Hoekstra, and Karen Midgelany. Your support opens hearts and inspires minds.

Finally, thank you to all of the community benefactors who know the value of a well-rounded education. Your continued contributions serve as fertilizer for us all.

From left: Angelica Chavaree, Lily Lavallee, Ella Shaffer, Averie Flewelling and Tori White

 

Daxxtyn Williams and Ella Shaffer

 

Seymour (Daxxtyn Williams) witnesses Orin Scrivello (Tori White) mistreat Audrey (Ella Shaffer) as Mr. Mushnik (Austin Hathaway) listens in from outside the shop.

 

Mr. Mushnik (Austin Hathaway) fear of losing money makes a proposal of adoption to Seymour.

 

Ronette (Angelica Chavaree), Crystal (Lily Lavallee) and Chiffon (Averie Flewelling) sing of the lure of the dark side.

 

The sudden surge of income is both scary and exciting.

 

Hilarious dentist office scene, this time with Tori White as the evil Orin Scrivello.

 

‘Say ah’ or rather, ‘Say ahhh!!!” -confirming fears of the dentist’s chair. This time with Liz Robare as Orin Scrivello.

 

The root of all evil.

 

The offers keep coming in. This time by Skip Snip (Abby Grant)

 

Fabulous Assistant Director Brittany Wetherill also subbed for Emily Keldie as Mrs. Luce.

 

Mr. Bernstein (Troy Hathaway), Skip Snip (Abby Grant), Customer (Addie Hemingway) and Interviewer (Anna Ross)

 

Outstanding performances by classic star-crossed lovers Williams and Shaffer.

 

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