'Little Shop of Horrors' hits high school stage

Mark Cornfield directs the production at Vista del Lago High School
By: Margaret Snider, Telegraph Correspondent
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What: “Little Shop of Horrors: the Musical”
When:  7 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, April 4-6, and April 11-13; 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 6-7, and Saturday, April 13
Where: Vista del Lago High School, Black Box Theatre, 1970 Broadstone Parkway, Folsom
Cost:  $12 adults, $10 students/seniors; Super Senior Sunday 1 p.m. April 7

The tale of a talking plant with a craving for human blood takes the spotlight starting Thursday.

“Little Shop of Horrors,” directed by Mark Cornfield, opens on April 4 at Vista del Lago High School, with a large number of enthusiastic and energetic cast and crew.

“We have probably 25 students in the show,” Cornfield said. “About seven play in the orchestra and another seven to ten are working backstage. So it’s a lot of kids.”

The story, Cornfield said, is a 1950s era sci-fi takeoff about a very nerdy flower shop worker, Seymour, played by sophomore Jesse Cassani, 16, who falls in love with a little plant. He finds that the plant needs blood to grow and eventually he’s feeding it people that are causing him trouble.

“People do get eaten,” Cornfield said, “but I think most kids that have seen it really liked it. I don’t think it’s really scary.”

Seymour names the plant Audrey II in honor of the girl, Audrey, whom he has a crush on, played by senior Arjana Sanfilippo, 17. The grumpy shop store owner, Mushnick, is played by Jordan Ashby, who is 17 and a junior.

“(Mushnick) really hates Seymour,” said Ashby, “because he thinks the guy is a klutz and can’t do anything right.”

Cassani is an experienced actor, and has been doing the Sacramento Music Circus for two years. He said he is definitely considering acting as a career.

Sanfilippo also is a professional, having been in a lot of community theater shows, Sutter Street Theater, and El Dorado Music Theater. She has been accepted into the University of Utah, where she will work for a Musical Theater degree, with aspirations toward Broadway.

One of the highlights of the play is the custom designed plant, Audrey II, who goes through four different growth stages during the performance. She starts out as a small plant on a table, then a slightly larger plant. Both of those stages are played as hand puppets worked by one of the students. In the last two stages, Audrey II actually has an actor inside dancing and working it. The man-eating plant inside Audrey II is played by Jerry Bellizzi and Kathleen Bodeman, while its off-stage voice is Bencent Crump.

“Little Shop of Horrors” is the third show Mark Cornfield has directed in this, his first year teaching at Vista del Lago High School. He has been in theater for more than 30 years, and has directed hundreds of productions: high school, college, and professional. For this production, he is aided by assistant director Anne Ellis, a junior considering a career in theater.

“I like acting better, but I love directing,” Ellis said. “It’s been really good for me to learn the backside for future auditions, so I know what (Cornfield) is looking for, and what other directors would be looking for.”