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Night of Thrills and Laughter: Local Production Company stages ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ the Musical

posted Oct 10, 2015, 2:33 PM by Ghostlight Productions   [ updated Oct 10, 2015, 2:34 PM ]
Members of Ghostlight Productions will be staging the musical ‘Little Shop of Horrors on July 31 and Aug. 1.

(Article published in the North Bergen Reporter on July 19, 2015)

Horrors are brewing in North Hudson. A whole Little Shop full. 

The popular musical comedy “Little Shop of Horrors” will play for two nights only, July 31 and Aug. 1, at the Weehawken Elks Lodge at 2 - 50th St. All but one member of the cast are from North Bergen. Many of them are former students of music teacher Melissa Welz at Horace Mann School.

Welz is the co-founder of Ghostlight Productions, a local theater group created to stage performances and hold theater workshops for residents and neighbors. The group was established three years ago as the North Bergen Public Library Theater and performed one play each summer.

“Melissa was the director of that and the library was the producer,” said Manuel Ribes, one of the board members of Ghostlight and director of the upcoming play. “But she wanted to branch off and do her own program so we could do more risqué material. It’s still the same group of performers.”

Thus Ghostlight Productions was formed last year and has so far staged the musical “Rent” and a cabaret show at Christmas.

“Little Shop of Horrors” is their third production, and their most ambitious to date, for several reasons.

“The play is about 80 percent music so that was tricky,” said Welz. “It’s six-part harmony.”

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“He wanted it to be grotesque looking… lots of lumps, lots of veins,

like it will eat you if you came near it.” –Cynthia Hutson
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Plus there was the fact that the co-star of the show is a talking plant, Audrey II, who begins small but grows increasingly larger and more menacing over the course of the narrative. Not only is the plant an animate object, but – spoiler alert (in case the title didn’t warn you) – it craves human flesh and blood.


At first Welz looked to rent the prop plants but that quickly proved impractical.

“There was one in Boston, the cost was $500 but it was over $600 to ship,” she said.

So the company opted to make their own. “Making the plants was the hardest part,” said Welz. “Cynthia Hutson, the art teacher at the high school is making them. She’s incredible. I grew up with her and she used to sing in the chorus and last year she was in ‘Rent.’ My father’s making the big monster at the end. He’s a mechanical engineer.”

“This is baby Audrey,” said Hutson, proudly showing off the first version of the plant to take the stage. “This is going to be a smaller hand puppet Audrey and it’s going to be sitting in a small pot. She’s not quite done yet. We have a bigger size Audrey that one of the cast members is going to be holding as a puppet attached to his costume. And then there’s the bigger Audrey which doesn’t even fit in my car.”

The prop is made from foam and lightweight materials so it is flexible and easy to manipulate. “Manny said he didn’t want it to be like a ‘cute’ Audrey,” said Hutson. “He wanted it to be grotesque looking, and that’s right up my alley. So lots of lumps, lots of veins, like it will eat you if you came near it.”

Once the production is over, Welz hopes to make the props available online for use by other local production companies. “I want to help other community theaters as well,” she said.


A growing reputation

L
upita Asto plays Audrey II, a role that ensures the actress is never actually seen on stage. “She’s going to be voicing it while we have a puppeteer puppeteering it,” said Ribes.

Like several of the cast members, Asto stumbled across Ghostlight on social media. “Someone posted it on Instagram and I saw auditions for the cabaret show. So I auditioned and that’s how I got involved,” she said. Since then she has been a regular in the troupe. 

All 15 cast members for “Little Shop of Horrors” sing in their roles. About half of the actors are new to Ghostlight, with four of them new to the stage.

“For ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ we had open auditions, but we kind of knew who would come out and audition,” said Welz, noting that the group has grown largely by word of mouth and by reputation. “Each show we do brings out more people to audition, like a friend of a friend who came to the show. What is different about our theater company is we’re really like a family. If we don’t have a rehearsal, we’ll go bowling or go see a movie. We really bond. There’s never any drama in our cast whatsoever.”

In addition to Welz and Ribes, the board consists of Heather Zahn, who co-founded Ghostlight with Welz, and Veronica Franco. Zahn is the stage manager and Franco works with costumes and props. Both also perform in the show.

Welz, in addition to being the music director, plays one of the lead roles: Audrey (the human, not the plant). 


Making it happen

Rehearsals of the play have been taking place in the hall behind the Grove Reformed Church at 46th Street and Kennedy Boulevard. Pastor Steven Germoso connected with Welz on Instagram (how else?) and graciously offered space to prepare for the performances. 

“He’s a very nice guy,” said Welz. “I told him I have no place where I can perform. He opened his doors and said, ‘Why don’t you rehearse in my church home?’ Without him the cast can’t dance, we can’t block.”

Preparing for a stage musical is hard work, and not cheap. “It costs so much for royalty fees and rights to put on a musical,” said Welz. “I’d estimate so far it’s cost about $1500. Every day you do a performance you pay royalties. The plant was a big expense. When I rent out the halls, it costs money. We need a permanent space. I really wish Ghostlight had a space we could always perform in. We need a home.”

Tickets to “Little Shop of Horrors” cost $15 ($12 for students and seniors). “The money goes toward Ghostlight Productions,” said Welz. “What I want to do is have more musical theater workshops and make the next musical even bigger.”

Upcoming from the troupe will be a Halloween cabaret. “We want to do something different,” said Welz. “People always have cabarets around Christmas but we did that last year. We want to do a cool, magical, scary Halloween cabaret. We’ll do ‘Thriller’ and the songs from ‘Nightmare before Christmas’ and ‘Rocky Horror Show.’”

Performances of “Little Shop of Horrors” will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 31 and Saturday, Aug. 1 at the Weehawken Elks Lodge, 2 - 50th St. For tickets or more information email ghostlightproductionsnb@gmail.com or call (973) 937-8343. 

Article written by Art Schwartz. He may be reached at arts@hudsonreporter.com.


Read more: Hudson Reporter - Night of thrills and laughter Local production company stages Little Shop of Horrors the musical