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‘Little Shop of Horrors’ opens May 14 at Strauss Theater

By Staff | May 4, 2016

Henry Crater rehearses the role of Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors.” MEGHAN MCCOY

After a man eating plant was discovered by Seymour and fame consumes him, he is faced with how to feed the plant during the Creative Theater Workshop upcoming play “Little Shop of Horrors” at Herb Strauss Theater.

Creative Theater Workshop (CTW) Founder Michelle Hamstra said they opened auditions in February for “Little Shop of Horrors” to mainly any high school student in the area. The cast meets three Sundays a month from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Herb Strauss Theater, providing them with 10 rehearsals before the opening date of the show.

“We are lucky because we can get talent from all the different schools,” she said – Cypress Lake High School Center for the Arts, North Fort Myers High School, Cape Coral High School, Canterbury School and homeschool students to name a few. “We have kids that drive over an hour to come to rehearsal on Sunday afternoons. We take pride in finding the best of the best and bringing all the kids together to put on a show. All the kids get to become friends with each other and it builds camaraderie in the community.”

“Little Shop of Horrors” will take the stage at Herb Strauss Theater at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 14, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday, May 15, and Sunday, May 22. General seating tickets are $20 for adults; $12 for students. Those who bring a copy of this newspaper article to the theater will receive $5 off ticket prices for up to four tickets. Tickets can also be purchased at www.creativetheaterworkshop.com.

The production, “Little Shop of Horrors,” was chosen by the kids. A meeting was held at Sweet Melissa’s, who has been sponsoring a lot of their events, where the kids voted to do “Little Shop of Horrors.”

The cast of “Little Shop Horrors.” MEGHAN MCCOY

The plot stems around a nerdy guy, Seymour, who works at a plant shop and is in love with a beautiful girl dating a bad boyfriend. Hamstra said Seymour discovers a plant that starts making him famous and he discovers the only way to make it grow is with human blood.

“He has a lot of dilemma on how to do that and what is right and wrong,” she said. “It’s a funny story, has great music and harmony. They are singing a four-part harmony and dancing.”

Twenty youth make up the cast of “Little Shop of Horrors.” There are also four CTW staff members working on the production, including Hamstra as the producer, Aaron Jackson as the director, Christopher Dean Anderson as the choreographer and Christy Koller as the vocal director.

Henry Crater, a Canterbury School student and Sanibel resident, is performing the role of Seymour. He said his character is a nerdy, quite guy, who works in Mushnik’s Skid Row Florist shop, with Audrey, who has an abusive boyfriend.

“He starts out as nerdy and quite and doesn’t have a whole lot of friends. He was an orphan, taken in by his employer and lives in the flower shop,” Crater said.

The performance, “Little Shop Horrors” includes a trio of middle school students. MEGHAN MCCOY

The 14-year-old said he was first introduced to the production while attending a performing arts camp in New York. He said he saw “Little Shop of Horrors” and instantly said “I want to play Seymour because it looks like fun.”

“It was perfect when I found out CTW was doing it six months later,” Crater said. “I love doing the accent. There is a lot of stuff to sing and it gets emotional some times. I love singing my way through the story of the show.”

Sanibel resident Sarah Heidrick plays the other leading role, Audrey. She said she is very good friends with Seymour and works by his side as he becomes famous for Audrey Two, the plant he discovers.

“Audrey has always been one of my dream roles,” Heidrick said. “Alan Menken wrote the lyrics and composed the shows. He has done a lot of stuff that I love. I love his work and the tone of the show. It’s always been one of my favorites, so when I heard they were doing it on Sanibel I had to audition.”

Hamstra said the rehearsals provide a nice atmosphere because kids may not be completely dedicated to the production while in school, but their passion shines while attending CTW.

Creative Theater Workshop’s youth rehearsing for “Little Shop Horrors.” MEGHAN MCCOY

“I think the talent is really amazing. Usually people don’t expect to see such quality. My past students have gone out and worked professionally, either at Broadway Palm, or Theater Zone,” she said.

Creative Theater Workshop formed a partnership with Herb Strauss Theater, allowing them to hold auditions, rehearsals and performances. Hamstra said BIG ARTS has really helped in growing children theater on the island through the partnership, which was her goal.

“We have a lot of kids from the island, but we also have kids commuting from very far away,” she said.

Creative Theater Workshop began by Hamstra more than 10 years ago. “Little Shop of Horrors” is the third production put on at Herb Strauss Theater.

“We are looking for a forever home, so we are hoping Herb Strauss and BIG ARTS will continue wanting us here building the theater for the kids,” she said.

The company began as a college project. Hamstra started her studies at the University of Central Florida before transferring to Florida Gulf Coast University because the theater program was smaller.

“I took an independent class where I had to put on a production. I put on ‘Tom Sawyer’ over 10 years ago. It was children’s theater. I really enjoyed it and it became a passion,” she said. “This is something I do on the side. I volunteer, but pay other people to work. I am a part-time teacher at Challenger Middle School. I teach dance, drama and sign language.”

CTW began at Alliance for the Arts, before moving to Cultural Park Theater, Cape Christian and then to Herb Strauss Theater.

“This is a perfect stage,” Hamstra said of Herb Strauss. “If you are too far away you don’t get to see the facial expressions and you don’t feel like you are apart of the show. Here, we have a lot of entrances and exits through the audience. We try to incorporate the audience into the show and make them feel they are right on stage with us.”

Hamstra said it is really important to have quality theater for her audience. She said it’s about going the extra mile to make sure they provide a quality experience, so the audience will come back for future shows.

“We have been very proud of continuing the higher standards,” Hamstra said.

Another portion of CTW are the workshops offered to the youth. She said they are learning technique while putting on the production.

“We are trying to teach them technique. They are learning as the go. I wanted them to learn, not just to be,” Hamstra said.

Crater began acting when he was 7 years old, performing in his first show “Jungle Book” with CTW.

“I love getting into a character and totally losing myself,” he said. “Just totally being somewhere else and having it be so real. It’s like becoming the character. Not just acting the character, but being the character.”

Heidrick did her first show with CTW when she was 6 years old. She is now a junior at Cypress Lake High School.

After attending her first performance, she fell in love with the idea of performing and becoming another person.

“I love making people smile and telling stories . . . being able to do that while singing and dancing on stage. Being able to tell stories is something that has always made me tick,” she said. “It’s something that is so special and unique. When you start a show the theater becomes another world. Being able to escape and step into another world for two and a half hours is so relaxing and so special. Being able to wake every day and become someone new and learn about other people and how to become someone else is mind blowing for me.”

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.