INSIDE LITTLE SHOP Part 3: Adventures in Tech

INSIDE LITTLE SHOP Part 3: Adventures in Tech

Photo: Ian Paul Custer (Orin) performs “Dentist” with Eunice Woods (Chiffon), Camille Robinson (Crystal), and Jasondra Johnson (Ronnette)

In this 4-part series, Assistant Director Elyse Dolan takes us behind the scenes of American Blues Theater’s production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, directed by Jonathan Berry.

Part 3: Adventures in Tech

In our final days in the rehearsal space, we had a sitzprobe and a designer run which were both exciting and crowded. Between the cast, the band, and the creative/production team, there are more than 35 people involved in bringing this show to life. By the end of the week, we were all really looking forward to move onto the actual stage. We were thrilled to find that Scenic Designer Grant Sabin and Technical Director Michael Trudeau had built—and Eileen Rozycki had painted—such a beautiful set.

Tech for any show is an adventure, and musicals definitely come with their own unique set of challenges (Jonathan Berry jokingly suggested I title this installment of the blog “Musicals are Hard”), but luckily everyone has maintained great attitudes. It’s a fun group of people to spend time with: we’ve gotten to see lots of Mark David Kaplan’s fantastic dance moves while Michael Mahler entertains us with various musical improvisations including, most recently, Little Shop-themed lyrics to the tune of “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd.” All of the creative team are such pros that they’ve been able to handle all of the challenges of this show with great patience and skill. I’m particularly impressed with Sound Designer Rick Sims and Sound Engineer Morgan Lake’s abilities to balance and mix all of the music so masterfully, especially in an intimate space like the Greenhouse mainstage.

Jasondra Johnson (Ronnette), Camille Robinson (Crystal), and Eunice Woods (Chiffon) practice a dance while Assistant Stage Manager Shandee Vaughan and Michael Mahler (Seymour) prepare to begin a scene during spacing rehearsal

Jasondra Johnson (Ronnette), Camille Robinson (Crystal), and Eunice Woods (Chiffon) practice a dance while Assistant Stage Manager Shandee Vaughan and Michael Mahler (Seymour) prepare to begin a scene during spacing rehearsal

As for the other design elements, Heather Gilbert’s lighting design is magical. The richness of the color palette she’s created and the variety of moods she’s found is stunning. Izumi Inaba’s costume designs are fabulous and full of personality. Our Props Designer Christopher Neville has come up with so many creative solutions and so many flowers! I can’t wait to see everything come together in these final days of tech and the upcoming previews – it’s a wild and amazing show.

I had the opportunity to speak with Ensemble member Dara Cameron (who plays Audrey) about being a part of Blues and playing opposite her husband Michael Mahler.

What excites you most about working on Little Shop of Horrors?

“We’ve been looking forward to this production for so long—I couldn’t be more ecstatic to finally get to dive in. Little Shop is kind of in a class all by itself, I think—it’s uniquely satirical and biting, honest and heartfelt, all at the same time. And the score is incomparable. If that weren’t enough, American Blues truly has assembled a dream team—from the designers to Austin and Jonathan, to this cast. We’re so lucky.”

American Blues Ensemble member Dara Cameron plays Audrey

American Blues Ensemble member Dara Cameron plays Audrey

What is your favorite thing about getting to work with your husband? 

“Michael and I have gotten to work together quite a bit, actually. We’ve done three It’s a Wonderful Life productions together and this is the second musical he and I will have gotten to do with Jonathan Berry (he directed us in They’re Playing Our Song at Fox Valley Repertory Theatre in St. Charles several years ago)! Getting to sing onstage with Mike is one of my very favorite things to do. He’s my favorite duet partner. Plus, it’s very easy to run lines together. And it makes for a very convenient carpool situation! Now, if only we could have gotten our little dog in on the deal… he would have made a ferocious Audrey Two.”

We’re celebrating 30 years of American Blues this season! What does being an Ensemble member at Blues mean to you?

“I am so grateful that American Blues found us and we found them. For me, having an artistic home in Blues is kind of what being a Chicago actor is all about. The pride in my ensemble and the incredible work that gets done is something I do not take for granted. And specifically, the holidays for me mean getting to do It’s a Wonderful Life with the loveliest group of people around. If I try to pin it down to a single feeling or experience—getting to share that story and sing “Auld Lang Syne” with hundreds of Chicago theatergoers every year kind of encapsulates being an American Blues Ensemble member for me.”

What will you be working on next?

“I’ll be playing “Cinderella” up at the Marriott Theatre in the mornings in their world premiere Theatre for Young Audiences production of Cinderella: After the Ball while doing Little Shop this spring! After that, I’m not sure! But I’ll definitely be back this winter for It’s a Wonderful Life!”

Also check out INSIDE LITTLE SHOP: Part 1  and Part 2.


About author

Elyse Dolan

Elyse is American Blues Theater’s Assistant Producer, and a proud Artistic Affiliate. At Blues she has directed several short plays in past Ripped festivals; assisted Kimberly Senior on the reading of Other Than Honorable; and assisted Ed Blatchford on The Rainmaker. Most recently, she directed the world premiere of Here After by Evan Sesek at The New Colony. Other Chicago credits include directing stage readings for Pride Films & Plays, Three Cat Productions, and the Greenhouse Theater Center, and serving as Assistant Director on productions at Raven Theatre, Oracle Theatre, 16th Street Theater, and Redtwist Theatre. Elyse holds a B.A. in Theater and English Literature from Denison University.